Voters in the East Berea precinct voted in favor Tuesday of allowing alcohol to be sold at Boone Tavern, but the final decision now lies in the hands of Berea College trustees.

There were 204 voters who turned out for the alcohol referendum election conducted at Madison Southern High School. Out of those voters, 147 people voted in favor of alcohol sales, while 57 voted against sales.

The election process was a smooth one, according to Madison County Clerk Kenny Barger.

Approximately 30 people already had voted by 10:30 a.m. Tuesday, according to Barger.

However, some confusion surrounded the details of what regulations were included in the referendum, he said.

“(Boone Tavern) is the only one that fits in East Berea,” Barger said. “Just because it passed doesn’t mean you can open a liquor store in East Berea.”

Some people also have been under the assumption that the referendum also includes Papa Leno’s Restaurant.

“People think that because they’re in the same building, but that’s not the case,” Barger said. “It’s just Boone Tavern.”

The referendum was conducted in accordance with a state law (KRS 242.1242) that allows drink sales in an establishment on a historic property with a restaurant that seats 50 or more and also provides overnight lodging.

Boone Tavern is the only business in the precinct that meets those criteria.

Despite the referendum’s outcome, the question of whether Boone Tavern would serve drinks remains open.

When petitioners began collecting signatures, Berea College President Larry Shinn issued a statement denying the drive was initiated or endorsed by the college, which owns Boone Tavern Restaurant and Hotel.

The college’s trustees would have to approve serving alcohol in Boone Tavern, he said.

A date as to when the trustees will meet to discuss this issue has not been announced.

Despite what its name implies, the tavern has never sold alcohol in its more than 103-year history.

Ronica Shannon can be reached at rshannon@ or 624-6608.

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