In a bipartisan decision, the Louisville Metro Council voted 16-10 to send an ordinance limiting when liquor and wine can be sold back to committee.
The legislation would’ve prohibited liquor stores from selling wine and distilled spirits from 2 a.m. to 4 a.m., but a proposed amendment that sought to ban late night beer sales put the measure on hold.
Joined by constituents who favor the bill, Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, argued that cutting off alcohol sales at 2 a.m. would help reduce crime and spur economic development in the West End, where most of the late-night liquor stores are concentrated.
“We have to take control of our neighborhoods (and) this is a related issue,” Hamilton said. “There are 13 districts here that don’t have this problem. Seven of us have an inordinate amount of package liquor stores that have with them the alcohol and drug-related arrests.”
But the exemption of beer sales in the ordinance did not sit well with many council members and was roundly criticized by Democrats and Republicans for being unfair to businesses.
“The present ordinance before us deals strictly with packaged liquor and wine. It does not deal with beer, and beer is alcohol. It’s as simple as that,” said Councilman Brent Ackerson, D-26, adding he agrees with lawmakers about the problems those stores create. “If a person can’t buy their vodka or their bourbon, they are going to turn to buy a beer. So if we are going to truly address the problem, the problem needs to be addressed across the board and that is alcohol sales after 2 a.m.”
Rather than vote on Ackerson’s amendment to also ban beer sales, the council punted the ordinance back to the public safety panel for further consideration.
Supporters of the ban, however, say critics outside of west Louisville don’t understand how their districts are being targeted by predatory businesses.
Several residents told council members liquor store owners in the area have bad business practices that allow loitering and illegal drug sales, adding their late hours disrupt residential neighborhoods.
“If you live near a liquor store you know that it draws a crowd and after a night of partying it’s hard to go to work and do homework living next to an establishment like that,” Shawnee neighborhood resident Khajah Cunningham told lawmakers. “Is it going to keep going until 6 o’clock in the morning? Will there be an ordinance for 24 hour service? We have to put our foot down. I’m not against drinking, but it’s a problem with the amount they drink.”
Besides residents, a number of representatives from other interested parties such as drinking giant Diageo attended the council meeting. A spokesman told WFPL they were “there to watch the proceedings.”
Part of Hamilton’s admitted hesitance to add beer sales to the legislation was opening up regulations to a larger number of businesses, particularly ones outside of her district.
The insistence by council members to put that language in the ordinance is likely to attract more opposition besides West End liquor store owners.
Thorntons Vice President David Bridgers attended the council meeting. He told WFPL the convenience store chain is against the inclusion of beer sales and the company contacted council members this week to voice its opposition.
“We’re convinced that the real problem is not the time you sell beer,” he says. “It’s a matter of other things that go on such as people not running establishments responsibly. It may involve some issues about how the city polices (those) areas. But we’re not convinced that is has to do with whether we sell beer at midnight, 10 p.m. or 4 a.m.”