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ISSUE: Local alcohol regulations
OUR VIEW: Cities have been busy
When local voters decided in October to relax alcohol sales in Hardin County's three largest cities, the work of getting it done came to rest with the city governments.
The question on the ballot was quite simple: Do you favor the sale of alcoholic beverages? As usual, the process of implementation is not at all simple.
Legal counsel, staff members, city councils and mayors have logged countless hours navigating the complexities of laws concerning the sales of malt beverages, wine and distilled spirits.
Council members in Radcliff, Vine Grove and Elizabethtown have confronted issues regarding fees, hours of operation, application and enforcement policies. All the while, local leaders have struggled to understand the complexity of legal statutes and keep straight legal differences that apply to various types of alcoholic products.
During the debates, some council members have called for caution and endorsed conservative steps in hopes of minimizing negative issues sometimes associated with increased access to alcohol. Others have taken positions that the 3-to-2 vote favoring alcoholsales should be implemented without an abundance of restrictive measures.
Wherever you come done on that debate, it's fair to say local elected officials and city government staff members have carefully explored all options. Each one should be commended for their vigorous debates and thorough considerations.
The final issue to be resolved relates to local restaurants, some of which have been selling adult beverages for a decade. By approving a declaration of economic hardship, Elizabethtown and Vine Grove could allow restaurants to relax restrictions on their ratio of food revenue to alcohol revenue.
The 70-30 ratio used in Elizabethtown would be reduced to 50-50. Radcliff will no longer fall under the same restrictions because as a second-class city, all alcohol sales options are available there, including bars.
Some argue that failing to reduce the restaurant ratio will create a competitive disadvantage and push the businesses toward Radcliff. For the past few years, economic leaders have emphasized the benefit of a regional vision. The idea behind the concept is all benefit when regional economic conditions improve.
It's interesting to see how thin that belief truly is when Elizabethtown finds itself in even a minor perceived disadvantage.
Organizers who collected signatures for the wet-dry initiatives did not foresee this conflict because they initially did not have a full understanding of restrictions placed on fourth-class cities when it comes to alcohol sales.
But by the time voters went to the polls, the situation had been fully explained on multiple occasions. E'town and Vine Grove voters did not vote for bars. A separate vote would be necessary to cover that option. Asking city government to accommodate this compromise goes further than voters authorized.
By contrast, the situation in Vine Grove is quite different. Truly a small town, it shares a long border with Radcliff and has long-standing taverns and package stores across the Meade County line. Lincoln Trail Country Club is the only restaurant that meets the 100-seat requirement to sell alcohol as compared to Elizabethtown where more than two dozen currently qualify. The special designation was written for communities like Vine Grove, not for one of the state's 10 largest cities that portrays itself as a fourth-class city in order to benefit in other legislative matters, including the prepared food tax.
Declaring an economic hardship in Elizabethtown, which would apply citywide, is insincere and incorrect. Hardin County is the envy of much of Kentucky.
The Elizabethtown Metropolitan Statistical Area, which includes all of Hardin and LaRue counties, was declared No. 1 in the country in personal income growth and No. 1 in improvement in gross domestic product. The area also ranked as the fifth highest in the nation in terms of job growth.
Declaring an economic hardship sends the wrong message to development interests and it is unnecessary. It simply will allow one or two property owners to sell land for one or two sports bars that will create a handful of low-paying jobs.
City government would be exchanging its integrity for a meager economic gain.
Hardin County has a good story to tell. Don't tamper with it.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.