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State should update unfair liquor laws



State government should not keep laws on the books that create unfair advantages for one business over another, but that’s what Kentucky has with a complicated web of outdated liquor laws.

That’s why lawmakers ought to see an opportunity to modernize these laws following a federal court ruling in Louisville. U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ruled as unconstitutional a state law that allows grocery stores to sell beer but not wine and distilled spirits such as bourbon. The ruling follows a challenge brought by grocers who argued it is unfair to allow some pharmacies to sell wine and liquor.

Kentucky law currently prohibits the sale of “hard liquor” and wine in groceries unless the store creates a separate entrance. Pharmacies do not have to create a separate entrance. The parties involved in the lawsuit against the Kentucky Department of Alcohol Beverage Control have until Sept. 5 to file motions if they want to request a stay of his order.

After the court case is resolved, the Kentucky General Assembly should be prepared to update other areas of the state’s liquor laws. Gov. Steve Beshear appointed a task force this year to review the laws and make recommendations for changes.

Liquor laws that protect certain business interests will be the most difficult for lawmakers to revise because lobbyists who work for liquor stores will fight hardest to limit the sale of alcoholic beverages in groceries.

Lawmakers can do the right thing by judging what’s best for consumers in terms of safety and convenience. It makes no sense to sell a bottle of wine in a pharmacy but not in a grocery store.

The federal judge’s ruling is fair. The General Assembly can do the same thing.

— Kentucky New Era, Hopkinsville



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