Nearly 200 citizens attended the fiscal court’s Nov. 23 meeting at the Trigg County Recreation Complex Convention Center for the first reading of the ordinance, which originally called for a ban on smoking in establishments selling alcohol.
Trigg County magistrates studied the ordinance, received feedback from citizens and presented ideas on the ordinance, including potential changes to other provisions, to Judge-Executive Stan Humphries.
Local organization Grow Trigg circulated a petition earlier this year calling for a vote to end prohibition in the county, a vote that passed by 36 votes Sept. 29.
The Montgomery voting district has submitted a petition to the county asking for an election that would allow that precinct to return to dry status, and the county is currently awaiting Circuit Judge Woody Woodall’s decision to allow or deny such elections.
Tuesday, Woodall said that ruling could come within 30 to 60 days and that he plans to meet with legal counsel for the county and the filers of the petition to discuss the matter.
“Once each side is served with a summons, they’ll have 20 days to do something anyway,” Woodall said. “My best estimate is that we won’t have any kind of hearing for at least 30 days.”
Woodall said a 1994 Knox County Circuit Court case prohibited precinct alcohol referendums, but the Kentucky Supreme Court’s ruling in the later case of Campbell vs. Brewer allowed the votes.
In the meantime, the fiscal court has a 24-page ordinance that is set for a second reading and passage at 6 p.m. Monday at the convention center.
After the first reading, several citizens addressed the court with questions and concerns about some of the provisions in the ordinance.
Several magistrates said the provision they’ve been asked about most is Section 4.14, which would have banned smoking in establishments selling alcohol.
Kevin Terrell (District 5) said he believes being allowed to smoke inside a business should be “a business decision made by the owners, not a bureaucratic decision made by the government.”
Terrell echoed this sentiment concerning Section 4.11, which would prohibit licensees from offering reduced-price specials (two-for-one, happy hour, etc.) from 6 p.m. until closing.
Jon Goodwin (District 3) and Larry Lawrence (District 6) each said they were pleased with the ordinance but felt the smoking ban needed to be addressed.
“A lot of people are thinking, if you’re going to ban it there, ban it county-wide,” Lawrence said. “If you ban it county-wide, it’s a bit of a smack at county tobacco farmers, and I don’t know if that would be a good idea or not.”
Goodwin said he has no personal preference on the smoking ban, but some of his constituents have approached him about it.
“I don’t know if discrimination is the right word, but you’re telling a guy that sells alcohol that he can’t allow smoking when restaurants that won’t serve alcohol do allow smoking,” Goodwin said.
Barry Littlejohn (District 2) said he feels the ordinance is fair to the community and sets the stage for progress in the county. He said he’s been approached by approximately an equal number of supporters and detractors of alcohol sales and that the majority of those were overall pleased with the ordinance. The smoking ban, however, is the provision he was asked about most.
“The consensus feeling has been that people don’t mind it as long as you can’t smoke county-wide or you can smoke anywhere,” Littlejohn said. “Cancer rates are high in Trigg County, and it’s a known fact that secondhand smoke is dangerous. People feel like this could be the beginning of a smoking ban in public buildings in the entire county, but everybody seems to be fine with smokers having a designated area where they can smoke.”
Shannon Knight (District 1) said he’d heard concerns about the smoking issue as well, but he’s also heard from liquor store owners in Hopkinsville who had questions about what the ordinance will say about the availability of drive-up sales.
“For them, it’s a safety issue,” Knight said. “A lot of times, they like to close the doors and have strictly drive-thru business for the safety of their employees.”
On the smoking ban, Knight said, “I’m not sure if that would hold water unless we made it a county-wide ordinance. We’ll have to look at it from a legal standpoint in terms of what we can enforce and what we can’t.”
Section 4.13, which prohibits licensees from selling alcohol within 200 feet of a church or school, has also been a hot topic for magistrates.
Lawrence said several citizens had voiced concerns to him that the distance wasn’t large enough, but he said he doesn’t feel the provision will be changed.
Goodwin said, “I’d like to think most of the churches own more than 200 feet of property outside the parameter of the building anyway, so I don’t think that’s an issue.”
Terrell called for the provision to be eliminated completely, saying, “If there are restrictions to be put in place, it should be done through zoning law and regulations,” Terrell said.
Goodwin and Terrell each voiced opinions on Section 4.05, which would prohibit businesses from advertising the sale of alcohol with banners or on their business signs, other than in the name of the business itself.
Goodwin said he believed Cadiz businessman John Bryant made a good point when he addressed the court after the first reading of the ordinance when he said this provision would create an environment where the only way to know alcohol was being sold in an establishment would be to walk inside the building.
Terrell said the restrictions shouldn’t be in place unless similar restrictions will be enforced for the sale of tobacco products.
“Many of the cigarette and cigar signs that I have seen in the windows are huge,” Terrell said. “If we regulate one vice, we should do them all or none at all.”
Terrell said he believes the regulatory license fee should be raised from 6 to 10 percent and that portions of that amount should be earmarked for county projects like the recreation complex (2 percent for capital improvements) and the new senior citizens center (2 percent for principal payments to allow the project to be paid off early).
Goodwin said any additional tax might make it difficult for Trigg County businesses selling alcohol to compete with those in Christian County, which currently has no tax on such sales.
Terrell presented several other areas that he believes warrant discussion. One of those was Sunday sales (3.07), which would be banned under the current ordinance. Terrell said by-the-drink sales after noon would be sufficient.
“We are here to make a responsible ordinance to regulate it, not restrict it to the point that it will hurt the businesses that will serve alcohol,” Terrell said.
Terrell also suggested changes to provisions regarding consequences for payment violations and failture to disclose sales information (7.01 and 5.05) and license renewal fees (3.06). He also suggested adding a special exception license to the ordinance that would allow, for a higher cost, allow a few businesses to hold private parties (class reunions, wedding receptions, conventions, etc.) that might not end until after midnight.
Lacy Bush (District 4) said he believes the ordinance in its current form is workable and said he would wait to comment in more detail until after the matter is discussed further by the magistrates.
Donnie Tyler (District 7) had not been reached for comment at press time.