Food City opened its new wine and spirits store May 13, and showed off 2,200 choices of wine, liquor and other adult beverages ranging from the merely cheap ($7 and change for a bottle of inexpensive wine) to the eye-popping ($260 for a top-shelf, single-malt scotch).
“It’s been a long time coming,” one company official exclaimed as managers and employees gathered outside to cut the ribbon on the new store.
Whitesburg Police Chief Tyrone Fields, who is the Alcoholic Beverage Control Director for the city, said the city lost a large amount of annual tax revenue when Rite-Aid closed and left one of the city’s two liquor licenses up for grabs. Food City was awarded the license at the end of October 2019.
“I foresee it increasing the revenue tremendously,” Fields said.
The store joins Big Daddy’s Liquor Barn on the opposite end of town as the only stores in town where package liquor or wine can be purchased.
Fields said both stores have their own brand of convenience for customers.
“One has a drive-through, and one you buy your groceries and come straight out to it,” Fields said.
The Food City Wine and Spirits store was built onto the front sidewalk of the grocery store. State law requires a separate entrance for food and liquor/wine sales, though beer can be sold in the same space as groceries and will continue to be sold inside Food City.
City voters approved package sales in 2012, five years after approving liquor by the drink in restaurants that seat over 100 people. The law has since changed, lifting the restrictions on the number of seats in restaurants, allowing package sales and Sunday beer sales, and allowing two bar licenses. Jenkins has the same allowances, but the remainder of the county is still dry, as it has been since 1944, when court challenges to a 1943 dry vote were finally exhausted. The Court of Appeals, which at the time was the highest court in Kentucky, overturned that election in 1944, saying 32 voters in the Rocky Hollow precinct, 29 of whom voted to keep the county wet, were disenfranchised when the county board of elections refused to count their votes. That original decision was overturned after a motion by advocates for prohibition, and the county became dry. A second vote in 1946 failed to reverse the change.
In 1946, 72 of Kentucky’s 120 counties were dry. The number of dry counties has been falling rapidly since then and by January 2019, just 15 counties were completely dry. Most others were like Letcher County — “moist” counties, sales are allowed in some precincts, but not in the entire county.