Politics
7:59 am
Mon September 9, 2013

Louisville Liquor Store Owners, Residents Question Beer Exemption in Banning 4 a.m. Alcohol Sales

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Louisville Metro Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, is confident her bill eliminating alcohol sales at retail package stores after 2 a.m. will pass this week. 

The ordinance sailed through the council's Public Safety committee with a unanimous vote last Tuesday, and supporters maintain it's a way to improve quality of life in the West End.

According to city statistics, close to 70 percent of stores that carry special licenses allowing 4 a.m. liquor sales are located in west Louisville neighborhoods and the Newburg area.

Hamilton's bill does not apply to restaurants and bars. It also exempts 2 a.m. to 4 a.m. licenses for beer sales, which has been roundly criticized by liquor store owners as selective targeting and some constituents are questioning its effectiveness.

In June, a state law took effect dividing those special licenses between beer and other alcoholic beverages such as liquor and wine. Asked why the ordinance banning 4 a.m. sales doesn't include beer, Hamilton admits that would encompass a larger number of businesses outside of her district.

"If we eliminate (beer) we're dealing with 400 to 600 businesses in the city. So this is an easier bite of the apple right now," she says. "I've had people say we should have included it all. But I'm not trying to get rid of it, I'm trying to control the quality of life issues in our neighborhoods."

Hamilton has been a proponent of uprooting liquor stores to improve her council district before.

In 2008, she led a movement to hold wet-dry votes across precincts in the Shawnee neighborhood that stopped alcohol sales from over half a dozen specific stores.

Since then has since been a proponent of keeping those businesses out of the district , which includes Portland, Chickasaw and parts of Russell, to encourage more economic development. Just last week, Hamilton joined a group of constituents in Frankfort to oppose a store's appeal for a special license that the city rejected.

She says the location of the special licenses is a reflection of the larger divide in the city, adding most residents support the ordinance.

But other community leaders in Hamilton's district question if the ordinance will be effective, and point out that exempting beer sales contradicts claims by council members the measure will reduce crime in some way.

"I don’t see any difference between liquor, wine and beer. They’re all alcoholic beverages by which people can get can inebriated or drunk and cause problems, if that’s the issue," says Donovan Taylor, president of the Chickasaw Federation in Hamilton's district. "If you talk to these liquor store owners the beer sales are probably their largest sales, which doesn't address the problem residents have of vagrants and loitering around those stores."

Taylor adds the measure also gives businesses 24-hour convenience stores such Walgreens and Thornton’s a pass to sell beer, but punishes locally owned stores that sell wine or liquor in the community. 

Liquor store owner Sandra Fant agrees, and she is considering legal action if the council approves the bill. She says these proposed changes are more about picking on the lifestyle of working-class residents than combating crime.

"The council just opened up a law for people in the East End to have their Blood Mary's in the morning, but when you come to the West End where I live, my people cannot drink at 2 a.m.," says Fant. "Our lifestyles are different. These are blue collar people who enjoy themselves in the evenings who clean the toilets and wash your dishes. And (Hamilton) is really hurting herself with a lot of the regular folks. I mean the grassroots people oppose to just church people."

The full council will vote on the ordinance this Thursday.

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