Seeking Expansion

Oldham Chamber backs drive
to expand alcohol sales in county

A special spring referendum
is being planned next year

LA GRANGE, Ky. (September 2014) – Oldham County Chamber & Economic Development is behind a push for expanding alcohol sales countywide. Chamber officials believes alcohol sale options will enable the county to be competitive, maximize revenue generation and create business development and job opportunities.
The chamber is targeting a March 2015 date for a special election for county voters to decide whether to allow packaged alcohol sales countywide. An educational campaign is slated to run from August until October before a petition drive to get the initiative on the ballot kicks off in November.

Deana Epperly-Karem

Deana Epperly-Karem

“For the next few weeks, the chamber is working to educate Oldham Countians about the current status of alcohol laws in Oldham County,” said Deana Epperly Karem, Executive Director of Oldham County Chamber & Economic Development. “Many residents are not even aware that they cannot buy packaged alcohol within the county.”
La Grange passed an ordinance late last year allowing the sale of a bottle of wine or a 12-pack of beer in La Grange. “We are first trying to make sure that folks understand that this is the case. Residents can buy alcohol by the drink at Oldham County restaurants.”
Under state law, the maximum number of liquor store licenses that can be issued within the city is three, based on its population.
“There can be one store per every 2,700 people,” said Dan Doty, co-owner of All Aboard Liquors in La Grange. His store is located at 202 S. First Ave. The other business owners are his mother, brother and sister.
Doty has been in business for a little more than a year. In his opinion, “I think the citizens will decide if the county needs more liquor stores.”
He pointed out that stores have to be conveniently located for customer. For customers in north and south Oldham County, they are just a short drive away from stores in east Louisville versus having a longer drive time to make their purchases within the county.
Doty, who has lived in Oldham County his entire life, said a lot of his loyal customers are from the La Grange and Buckner areas, but also Henry and Trimble counties. There are also patrons from south Oldham County who like to support a local business, he said.
“The chamber led the initiative for limited sales in 2003,” Karem said. “Most folks don’t even realize that they cannot buy alcohol in the county outside the city limits of La Grange. In five years, this will be a mute point, and folks will wonder what took us so long.”
In 2003, the Oldham County Chamber of Commerce led a community initiative allowing alcohol to be sold by the glass in licensed restaurants. In addition, organizations may also host events allowing alcohol to be served by a licensed caterer.
Karem and the chamber believes these actions have created business opportunities within the county for residents, business owners and community leaders. Restaurants such as Applebee’s, Big R’s Barbecue, Gustavo’s Mexican Restaurant, Hometown Pizza and others have brought more visitors into the community and created jobs, she said. “They have also helped to keep residents dining and entertaining themselves in their own community,” according to the July 2014 chamber newsletter.
“Alcohol sales are usually connected to disposable income,” said Karem. “If folks want to buy a 12-pack or a bottle of wine, they’re going to do it somewhere. So let’s try to keep those dollars in Oldham County.”
Yew Dell Botanical Gardens and the Oldham County Country Club have applied for and received an expanded alcohol sales status. At this time, there has been no impact to Yew Dell because they have not begun actually selling alcohol yet, said Paul Cappiello, Ph.D., Executive Director.
“We are working with local and state officials to determine the best way for us to do so,” said Cappiello. He said Yew Dell has shared with the chamber the process “we followed when we petitioned for our precinct special election to allow us to sell alcohol by the drink at our events.”
Cappiello said he “supports letting the residents of Oldham County determine a direction on alcohol sales. We will certainly work with the chamber and others to do all we can to make things transparent and efficient. We support the work the chamber does to help promote Oldham County businesses, the business environment and quality of life in the area.”    
The Oldham Chamber & Economic Development Board of Directors created an Expanded Alcohol Sales Committee to pursue expanded alcohol sales for the county earlier this year. The result is an education and petition campaign process that began in August and last up to 60 days. Advertising and forums are possible way t educate residents.
The next step is to circulate a petition to support putting an expanded sales question on a special election ballot, with the targeted special election date for March 2015. A petition drive would begin in November, but at this time, “The number of necessary signatures on a petition will not be known until after the November general election,” said Karem. “We’ll need 25 percent of the number of votes cast in Oldham County on Nov. 4.”
The process would continue with the petition being submitted to the county clerk. The county clerk has the authority to set the official special election date, which the chamber hopes will be in March.
Oldham County Judge Executive David Voegele said he “supports the chamber having an initiative. I’ll live with whatever the community decides to do. The community should have the opportunity to express their opinion.”
Voegele said he “suspects it will pass” if time comes for a vote. “The research that’s been discussed with me points out that expanded sales will bring a broader range of entertainment and dining facilities to town.” He thinks attitudes toward alcohol sales has broadened, with citizens realizing they can safely engage in alcohol without abusing it.
“It’s the general conscience of Fiscal Court to move forward with the initiative. It’s a good thing to do,” said Voegele.
Karem said: “I think the timing is right. It’s a no-brainer.”

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