Thursday, May 21, 2009

Sunday Liquor Sales in Bardstown, the Inside Story.

Yesterday I told you about how Bardstown, Kentucky, is now permitting liquor sales on Sunday, with the county around it, Nelson, about to follow suit.

Here is the inside story.

It was Heaven Hill Distilleries, perhaps by accident, that got the ball rolling. Heaven Hill has probably the best visitors center in America's whiskey country. It is open six days a week. It is legal for them to provide a free tasting and they also sell their whiskeys in their gift shop. Although they have a special license for this, they are still subject to the local option laws of their local jurisdiction, which in their case is the city of Bardstown. So if Bardstown prohibits Sunday sales, which it did, Heaven Hill can't sell on Sunday.

Since the visitors center is closed on Monday, that meant they could only sell five days a week. Since they get the most traffic on weekends, they were losing one of their best days of the week too.

So Heaven Hill asked the Bardstown city council to let them sell on Sunday. The council could have passed an ordinance permitting Sunday sales just for the local distilleries, excluding other retailers, and that's what Heaven Hill requested. Once that was on the table, though, the local bars started to clamor for Sunday by-the-drink sales, then the local liquor stores started to clamor for Sunday packaged goods sales. The opposition to Sunday liquor sales apparently is not what it used to be, so the city council said okay to all of them.

Almost immediately, the bars and liquor stores in the rest of the county asked the county government to put them on an equal footing with their competition in the city.

The city ordinance is already in effect so last Sunday, for the first time, the Heaven Hill visitors center, and the local bars and liquor stores, could sell alcohol on Sunday. The county has passed the first hurdle and seems likely to legalize Sunday sales as well.

Yesterday, I speculated that tourism might have been the reason this change occurred at this time. Indirectly, it was.

Many thanks to my friends on the ground there for giving me the inside skinny.

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