Saturday, October 11, 2003

Appellate court favors liquor option

By Bruce Schreiner
The Associated Press

LOUISVILLE - A law allowing local option elections for liquor sales at large restaurants in dry territory should apply to all cities and counties, the Kentucky Court of Appeals said Friday.

A three-judge panel reversed a lower court's ruling that denied a local option election in Corinth, a small town in Grant County. The panel returned the case to Grant County Circuit Court for further proceedings.

The case had been appealed by Anna Francis Dalton, who submitted a petition for a local option election to county officials in early 2002.

The petition had 59 valid signatures, enough to qualify for the ballot. However, the county judge-executive refused to set an election and was upheld by the circuit court.

A trial judge cited a section of the local option law that applies to fourth-class cities or counties containing such cities where a liquor ban is not in effect. Corinth is a sixth-class city.

The appeals court said such an interpretation creates an inconsistency with another section of the statute that says local option elections could apply to a city or county where alcohol is banned.

The law allows petitions for local option elections on alcohol sales at restaurants that seat more than 100 and derive at least 70 percent of their gross receipts from food sales.

Other sections of state law allow such local option elections in first- through fourth-class cities in dry counties.

In recent years, voters in several Kentucky communities have voted to legalize liquor sales at the large restaurants.

Chief Judge Tom Emberton, who wrote the appellate opinion, said the section of law in dispute was enacted to give cities other than those in the first four classes the right to vote on limited alcohol sales.

"The General Assembly obviously believed that these cities and counties also have economic needs that can be met by the limited sale of alcohol in otherwise dry territories," he wrote.

Emberton said the lower court erred in ruling that the disputed section does not apply to all cities and counties in Kentucky.

Joining in the opinion were Judge William McAnulty of Louisville and Senior Judge Joseph Huddleston of Bowling Green.

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