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Grocers, Liquor Retailers At Odds Over State Law Change For Fourth Year

The Kentucky Food with Wine Coalition is waiting on a hearing date for a complaint they've filed seeking to overturn a state law.After three years of unsuccessfully lobbying the General Assembly to allow wine and spirits to be sold in grocery stores, the coalition is now hoping to have the restriction blocking the sales declared unconstitutional. Currently, no outlet that makes more than 10 percent of its gross sales from food staples, gasoline or engine oil can also sell spirits.Coalition manager Ted Mason says the complaint–which was filed in federal court last month–has more potential this year than other lobbying effort."With all the things that have been going on in the last three years with the economy and everything like that, it's not anything that's been a top, pressing issue with the legislature. We full well understand that, with all they've been dealing with. Generally, we thought this might be the best way to go," he says.No hearing date in the case has been set, but one could be held as early as next month.Kentucky Association of Beverage Retailers consultant Karen Thomas Lentz says coalition is unlikely to succeed. While state law blocks grocery stores and gas stations from selling liquor, it also keeps liquor stores from selling groceries or gasoline."The lawsuit is challenging the statue that requires they have no more than 10% in staple groceries, gasoline or lubricating oil. Everybody has to abide by that law. A package store cannot have more than 10%, nor can a drug store," she says.Mason and various grocers say expanding liquor sales will make customers happy and help business. A trade group of package liquor retailers disagrees. They say alcohol must be regulated. Further, they say the law isn't unconstitutional, since liquor stores cannot sell large amounts of groceries or gasoline.

Gabe Bullard is the director of news and editorial strategy.