Politics
10:41 pm
Thu October 24, 2013

Louisville Metro Council Eliminates 4 a.m. Alcohol Sales

After a long and emotional debate, the Louisville Metro Council moved to outlaw alcohol purchases at retail package stores after 2 a.m. by a 15-7 vote.

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The ordinance effectively eliminates special licenses allowing sales up to 4 a.m. except for bars and restaurants in an effort aimed at curbing crime and attracting economic development.

Council members kicked the measure back to committee last month over objections to an exemption that would have still allowed beer to be sold up to 4 a.m.

During the council meeting Thursday evening, the debate centered on whether to exempt businesses such as Thortons gas stations, which sell alcoholic beverages but make most of their money on other items.

A committee amendment proposed allowing retailers where non-alcoholic beverages make up less than 50 percent of their revenue to avoid the ban. But supporters of the ordinance argued that would ultimately dilute the measure.

Councilwoman Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, who sponsored the measure, says the concentration of liquor and convenience stores in her west Louisville district are the source of blight, crime and deter development.

"I have to leave my neighborhood to get the amenities that you enjoy every day," said Hamilton. "We can't get the businesses to locate in our neighborhoods. So we've been trying to clean up our neighborhoods and revitalize our neighborhoods. We've been investing millions of dollars block-by-block, protest letters and I don't know how much else we have to do."

Opponents of the measure included local liquor store owners and convenience chain representatives who said it was unfair to allow bars and restaurants to serve alcohol after 2 a.m. They also say a liquor ban is a scapegoat and won't address the real problems in the West End or other areas.

Police figures obtained by WFPL show arrests involving alcohol since August 2012 peaked between the hours of 8 p.m. to midnight, and subsequently decline until the next afternoon.

Data also finds more alcohol-related incidents took place in the council district covering the Highlands than in Hamilton's West End district.

"I think we need greater enforcement of the laws that are already on the books. And hope to get there, I'm not sure we should have a blanket law that may not achieve the results that we are seeking," said Councilwoman Marilyn Parker, R-18. "I don't think we should penalize businesses for doing business."

In the end, however, the fact that Jefferson County is the only county in Kentucky that allows 4 a.m. special licenses and other efforts to improve low-income areas swayed the council.

"I am pleading with you to allow us to get a higher quality of life to the residents of my district. You don't have the problems that I have," said Councilman David James, who held back tears. "You don't have to live with the problems we do. I am begging, please pass this amendment."

The ordinance now heads to Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer’s office for his signature.

UPDATE 10:55 p.m.:

Those who vote for the 4 a.m. alcohol sales ban: Attica Scott, D-1, Barbara Shanklin, D-2, Mary Woolridge, D-3, David Tandy, D-4, Cheri Bryant Hamilton, D-5, David James, D-6, Tom Owen, D-8, Tina Ward-Pugh, D-9, Rick Blackwell, D-12, Marianne Butler, D-15, Jerry Miller, R-19, Dan Johnson, D-21, James Peden, R-23, Madonna Flood, D-24, and Brent Ackerson, D-26.

Those against: Ken Fleming, R-7, Jim King, D-10, Kelly Downard, R-16, Glen Stuckel, R-17, Marilyn Parker, R-18, Robin Engel, R-22, and David Yates, D-25.

Council members Kevin Kramer, R-11, Vicki Aubrey Welch, D-13, Cindi Fowler, D-14, and Stuart Benson, R-20, were absent.

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