Prohibition in Kentucky is still alive, but mostly in rural areas

ksheridan@herald-leader.comOctober 18, 2011 

  • The exceptions

    In Kentucky, it's not as simple as being wet or dry; some counties are dry but there are exceptions that allow some alcohol sales. Here's a guide to Kentucky's gray area between wet and dry:

    Moist: A county is "moist" when some of its cities have exceptions for alcohol sales. Danville, Shelbyville and Ashland are all wet exceptions in dry counties. Twenty seven counties are moist.

    Limited-50: Allows alcohol sales at restaurants with at least 50 seats. Alcohol sales are capped at 30 percent of total sales. Five counties have cities with limited-50 designations.

    Limited-100: Allows alcohol sales at restaurants with at least 100 seats. Twenty-four counties have cities with limited-100 designations.

    Golf course: Certain golf courses may apply for licenses to sell alcohol by the drink in otherwise dry areas. Fifteen counties have allowed golf courses this exception.

    Small-farm winery: Wineries are allowed to sell alcohol in dry cities or counties. These wineries often have tastings and sales at their sites as part of the agritourism movement. Kentucky has 26 small-farm wineries.

    Qualified historic site: Allows qualified historic sites to apply for liquor licenses in cities or counties with this designation. The sites may sell alcohol by the drink only. Only two sites — Shaker Village of Pleasant Hill and South Greensburg, which is awaiting its license — have received that designation

    Source: Alcoholic Beverage Control

Prohibition is not a thing of the past in Kentucky the way it is in some states, but the sale of alcohol is still a hot-button issue.

When an alcohol vote is on the ballot, it's a major hullabaloo in some places.

Earlier this month, there were five local elections to expand alcohol sales. Elizabethtown, for example, went from being "moist" — allowing alcohol by the drink in restaurants that have seating for at least 100 people — to being fully wet, allowing retail and package sales at stores.

Kentucky has more "dry" counties than wet ones, although most people live in wet counties.

According to the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control, 39 counties are completely dry; 32 are wet. But the wet-dry classification is not so cut-and-dried anymore. Counties can have a variety of designations, including "moist," "limited-50," and "small-farm winery." Some exceptions can be made for drinks by the glass at golf courses and historic sites.

Dale Emmons, a political consultant who has advised campaigns to repeal prohibition, says he does not think the state will ever be completely wet.

"There are certain cultural mores that will prevent that," he said. "There is a core belief by certain constituencies in our state that the consumption of alcohol is evil or immoral." Regardless though, he says, "there's been a number of communities that have given the modified laws a chance."

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