FRANKFORT — For some, it’s simply a question of economic development and a market large enough to accommodate as many as 10 liquor retail licenses in Somerset, which last August voted to allow liquor sales.
But for the five companies which were granted licenses authorized by current state regulations it’s about fairness – or rather what they see as unfair competition.
Tuesday, lawmakers on the legislature’s Administrative Regulations Review Subcommittee sided with those who think voters assumed there would only be five licenses when they voted to approve alcohol sales in the Pulaski County seat.
Now Gov. Steve Beshear will get to decide the matter.
Last August, Somerset voters approved liquor sales in the town of about 11,000 in the heart of the Lake Cumberland tourist area. The rest of Pulaski County, with a population of about 64,000, remains dry, as do neighboring counties whose residents may also patronize retail liquor outlets in Somerset.
Under state law and regulations, the Alcohol Beverage Control Board typically – but not always – awards licenses based on a general formula of one license for every 2,300 residents. Using that calculation, Somerset would receive five licenses.
Following the election there were 17 applications for licenses with only five being granted by the ABC Board.
But the city of Somerset and its mayor, Eddie Girdler, in February complained to Pulaski Fiscal Court and the ABC Board that the decision to award only the five licenses was “arbitrary and capricious.”
According to a February story in the Commonwealth-Journal, Girdler said a high-volume retailer – Liquor World which has stores in Richmond and Manchester – was prepared to invest as much as $5 million in a Somerset shopping center to open one of its stores there. But Liquor World did not receive one of the five licenses.
The ABC Board decided to amend the regulation to allow 10 licenses, according to Commissioner Freddie Higdon and legal counsel Steve Humphress.