Kentucky city leaders say they didn’t choose to be wet; oversight in alcohol referendum leaves them with little choice

Published 5:19 pm Friday, February 19, 2021

An oversight in a ballot initiative suddenly made one Kentucky city wet when they wanted to remain dry.

So say Whilmore city leaders who can do nothing to prevent the legal sale of alcoholic beverages in their jurisdiction.

Organizers of a 2020 ballot initiative to legalize alcohol sales in Jessamine County say they didn’t intend for it to include Wilmore, but the way the referendum was worded included no exception for the city.

Many were surprised to learn after the election that alcohol was legal everywhere in the county — including Wilmore.

What they can do, though, is regulate those sales, officials said.

The Wilmore City Council was expected to hear the first reading of an alcoholic beverage control ordinance at its meeting this week, but because of inclement weather, the regular meeting was canceled.

The council’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. March 1 at City Hall, at 210 S. Lexington Ave.

The council meetings are open to the public, but there is not a virtual option for attendance.

Organizers of a 2020 ballot initiative to legalize alcohol sales in Jessamine County say they didn’t intend for it to include Wilmore, but the way the referendum was worded included no exception for the city.

Many were surprised to learn after the election that alcohol was legal everywhere in the county.

“We’re a wet town,” Rainwater said. “We didn’t choose to be, but we are.”

The only way to change that is for Wilmore to have its own referendum, but that could take two years and cost thousands of dollars, he said.

In the meantime, the city wants to limit how and where alcohol can be sold.

Rainwater said the ordinance would prohibit alcoholic beverage sales on Sundays, limit weekday sales to the hours of 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., and allow alcohol by the drink only in places that get 70 percent or more of their income from selling food.