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Gettin’ Drunk in Kentucky Just Got Easier

[ 43 ] August 14, 2012 |

Get big government out of my grocery store liquor aisle!

A federal judge ruled Tuesday that a Kentucky law prohibiting grocery and convenience stores from selling wine and distilled spirits is unconstitutional.

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II of Louisville said the state law “violates the U.S. Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause in that it prohibits certain grocery stores, gas stations and others … from obtaining a license to sell package liquor and wine.”

In Kentucky locations where alcohol sales are allowed, beer — but not wine or spirits — may be sold in grocery stores. Grocery stores, however, may get a license to sell wine and liquor if they provide a separate entrance to that part of the store, where minors are not allowed to work. A store employee of legal age is required to conduct beer sales.

Such requirements do not apply to drugstores.

Thank goodness somebody finally found a use for the Constitution. This change will make it approximately 2.3% easier to acquire wine and liquor in Lexington by effectively making every single business establishment a liquor store. Now if we could only do away with the “no liquor sales on Election Day” rule, and the “can’t mail booze into Kentucky” rule, which is a genuine inconvenience.

Comments (43)

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  1. Scott Lemieux says:

    Now here’s the kind of regulations libertarians could be trying to strike down, rather than trying to deny people health insurance.

  2. Kyle Huckins says:

    Shouldn’t there be a liquor sales mandate on Election day. Nationally, not just in Kentucky.

  3. Erik Loomis says:

    “Thank goodness somebody finally found a use for the Constitution.”

    Superb line my friend.

  4. Poicephalus says:

    …which is a genuine inconvenience.

    Not to mention totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL.

  5. Okay, so why can’t I buy a pistol from the bartender just before I have to pay the bill?

  6. J.W. Hamner says:

    Wait… so you’re saying you could already buy whiskey at a CVS before this ruling?

    Liquor laws are so weird.

    • Yup. Whiskey at CVS, but no wine at the grocery store.

      • Landru says:

        I’m an outlander and fly into Lexington on business (in one of the dry counties to the south) pretty regularly. I usually stop at a Rite-Aid near the airport to pick up a couple of things that don’t fly carry-on. The first time I saw a liquor cabinet in the Rite-Aid, I knew how much of an outlander I was, though to this law’s credit, that feeling got more pronounced pretty quickly.

    • Jeremy says:

      Indiana is like this. Liquor at CVS but not at the grocery stores. Warm beer everywhere, but cold beer only in liquor shops.

      What really sucks is coming back to visit family and realizing the hard way you can’t buy any booze on Sundays.

  7. Funkhauser says:

    We here in New York are interested in your ideas and would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    • Always Lurking says:

      I wonder. Grocery stores have been agitating around NYC for a long time to be able to sell wine and spirits. I fear for the long-term viability of my favorite wine stores…

  8. Kyle Huckins says:

    I’m in New Jersey where you can’t get alcohol at a drugstore. *facepalms mightily*

  9. DocAmazing says:

    Considering that a large fraction of the non-rum spirits I consume hail from Kentucky, I’m surprised that it took this long.

  10. Lige says:

    Just moved to Indiana – the warm beer thing is nuts. Not can you not buy alcohol on Sundays but you also aren’t allowed to buy a car. What about Right to Drink?

  11. Pseudonym says:

    “No State shall… deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” What person is being denied equal protection here? The grocery store? Its owner?

    • Murc says:

      As I understand it, the owner of the grocery store, yes. The justification is that the law as written is way too arbitrary; they split the baby too many times and too closely.

      It would be like if you tailored a law specifying that liquor may only be sold in establishments constructed from red clay bricks, on the vernal equinox, by people in full 19th century period English dress who preform a song (of your choice) from the canon of Gilbert and Sullivan with every purchase. There’s no compelling state interest there.

      Here in New York, for example, we have restrictive liquor sales, but its much less arbitrary; an establishment that is selling things for consumptions elsewhere may sell spirits OR beer, pick one. This is annoying and inconvenient, but its at least colorable.

      • Marek says:

        Why colorable? It seems just as arbitrary.

        • Murc says:

          Well, the argument here in New York is based on some pretty creaky thinking regarding the hazards to public healthy, safety, and morality created by making all forms of alcohol available everywhere. They’re BAD arguments, but they’re not ARBITRARY ones.

          In practical terms, we hold onto our current liquor regimen because liquor store owners would very much like for supermarkets to not be able to stop selling wine and liquor. I live in Rochester, and I can tell you straight-up Wegmans would love to get into that game in a huge way.

      • rea says:

        There’s no compelling state interest there.

        This is not a strict scrutiny/compelling state interest situation–all it needs is a rational basis.

        Not that it has a rational basis.

      • Snarki, child of Loki says:

        It would be like if you tailored a law specifying that liquor may only be sold in establishments constructed from red clay bricks…

        Better watch out, the “red clay brick” construction lobby is very powerful. If you get one through your window tonight, you’ve been warned.

        And besides, who says that there *isn’t* a compelling state interest in maintaining an active appreciation in the canon of Gilbert and Sullivan among the drinking classes?

        “I’ll have a fifth of Bombay Gin, and a ‘Modern Major General’, please”

      • NonyNony says:

        Actually your analogy doesn’t quite work right given the way the story looks.

        It’s more like Kentucky passed a law saying that if you’re a grocery store then you can only sell liquor if your store is constructed from red clay bricks, on the vernal equinox, by people in full 19th century period English dress.

        But if you’re a drugstore then you only need to worry about the red clay brick requirement.

        The problem seems to be the unequal treatment, not the ridiculousness of the requirement. IANAL, but the way the story reads it sounds like the legislature could pass a law saying that ALL businesses that sell liquor have to fulfill the same requirements as the grocery stores and it would be fine.

  12. Anderson says:

    I’m not buying this; look for the state law to be upheld 3-0 as valid police power when this gets appealed.

  13. L. says:

    Who cares if you can’t mail booze into Kentucky? Kentucky is where all the good booze comes from.

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