Letcher County residents may be able to buy their first beer from a retail store as early as next week.
Nathan Jones, spokesperson with Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control in Frankfort, confi rmed that Rite Aid Pharmacy in Whitesburg has been issued the first retail beer license in the City of Whitesburg since residents voted overwhelmingly in late June to expand alcohol sales from restaurantonly. The license was issued October 12 to Rite Aid of Kentucky Inc.
Eric Harkreader, public relations specialist with Rite Aid Corporation in Camp Hill, Penn., said the store could receive beer shipments as early as October 22.
Space has been cleared in the store’s coolers to hold beer and a sign on a cooler window warns about the effects of consuming alcohol while pregnant. A sign on the front door already reminds patrons there will be no alcohol sales on Sunday.
Rite Aid has also applied for a retail liquor by the package license, which is still pending. Walmart and Food City are expected to be issued retail beer licenses in the coming weeks.
Big Daddy Liquor Barn, East KY Discount Tobacco and Beer, and Fuzzy’s Liquor, Beer and Tobacco Partnership have also applied for package liquor by and retail beer licenses. VFW Post 5829 in Whitesburg has applied for a private club beer license.
In a related matter, Hazard businessman Danny Crutcher visited the October meeting of the Whitesburg City Council Tuesday and announced he had applied for a license to operate a package store in Whitesburg. Crutcher, who operates the Fuzzy’s partnership, told the council he has the necessary financial means to compete with Rite Aid and other chain stores in beer sales and said he can bring the city between $5,000 and $6,000 a month in tax revenue from liquor and beer sales.
Crutcher said he has operated stores in Hazard and Vicco since 1977 and knows the business. He said if he receives a license he will build a new store and hire five or six people.
Mayor James Wiley Craft told Crutcher he attended an state Alcoholic Beverage Control symposium last week and was told the decision as to who receives package licenses will rest solely with the ABC board. Craft said he called the ABC’s counsel again to ask for clarification and was told the same thing.
“I couldn’t believe we don’t have local control,” said Craft. “I guess if they issue a license to a person we don’t want, we can reject it. But local control doesn’t seem to be a big factor.”
Crutcher replied that he had spoken to an ABC representative who told him the board tends to favor small business people over chain stores for liquor licenses in smaller communities and told Craft he believes in the end the city will have the last word.
City officials also confi rmed Tuesday night that Rite Aid presently holds the only beer license.
In other business, Whitesburg Water Maintenance Director Chris Caudill told the council one of the raw water pumps at the city water plant went down and said it will have to be replaced. Caudill said he rented a backup pump until the matter can be resolved but the city must have two pumps, with one to serve as a backup if the other goes down. He added that another pump at a sewer lift station at the community college had to be replaced and an altitude valve for the Tunnel Hill water tank also had to be replaced, He said the total cost for everything would be approximately $13,000. The council voted unanimously to allocate the funds for the needed equipment.
Paul Nesbitt of Nesbitt Engineering told the council the 120-day extension they made to the contractor on the City Water Intake is still in effect and said they are still waiting for the necessary parts. Summtt Engineering reported that work in the Upper Bottom on replacing water lines is complete and paving and clean up have also been completed. The council voted to authorize a draw down to pay the contractor. Craft said the work was well done and the streets look very good too.
Craft told the council that Halloween festivities will be held on October 31, the same as the county, and that city streets will be closed for trick or treat from 5 p.m. until 8 pm. He reminded council members this is an election year and said they might like to have booths to give out candy and election material in town.
Craft also said the city will observe “Paint the Town Pink Day” to highlight Breast Cancer Awareness on October 26. Craft said is year’s observance is especially poignant for the council because they recently lost council member Freda McFall to breast cancer and the city will honor McFall with their display at City Hall. He reminded council members that pink t-shirts are for sale that can hold campaign ads as well.
The board of directors of the Kentucky River Area Development District will hold its first board meeting of Craft’s term as board chairman on October 24 at the Pine Mountain Grill in Whitesburg.
Craft said the meeting will be held at noon and invited the public and all council members to attend.