Changes in state liquor laws passed by the Kentucky General Assembly last year have opened up two licenses for bars in Whitesburg, and two licenses for bars in Jenkins for the first time since the cities voted wet.
The changes in state laws did away with most differences in Alcoholic Beverage Control laws that were based on population. Neither Whitesburg nor Jenkins is large enough to have any “Quota Retail Drink Liquor Licenses” under the old law, however the new law allows for one license for every 2,500 people, with a minimum of two licenses.
Both cities already had restaurant sales, but no bars.
According to the Kentucky State Data Center estimates, which are used by the state ABC, Whitesburg had a population of 1,974 and Jenkins had a population of 2,070. That’s down from 2,139 and 2,203 respectively in the 2010 Census.
Also, Super Bowl Sunday marked the beginning of Sunday sales, at least at package stores in Whitesburg. Jenkins already allows Sunday sales.
Whitesburg Alcoholic Beverage Control Administrator Tyrone Fields, who also serves as police chief, said a loophole in the law allows Sunday sales between the hours of 1 p.m. and 9 p.m. The ordinance was written to close another loophole by creating a special license for special events.
“I think it was intended for special events, but you have an ordinance that says special license, and it doesn’t specify what special Sunday license means,” Fields said.
“Businesses have reached out to me saying they don’t think it’s fair that they don’t at least have the option to sell on Sunday because of revenue,” he said.
Fields said most of the businesses that have alcoholic beverage licenses have applied for the special licenses, but he doesn’t expect most restaurants to sell on Sunday because it might hurt business with “the church crowd.” He said sales would be mostly confined to package stores and grocery stores.
He said with the increasing emphasis on tourism in Letcher County, businesses in Whitesburg were afraid they would lose money to surrounding towns like Jenkins and Pound if they couldn’t sell on Sundays.
“Whitesburg is a thriving, growing town, no matter what the religious beliefs are, it is what it is,” Fields said.
Advertisements are in this week’s Mountain Eagle for the vacancies in Quota Retail Drink licenses.