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Federal Judge Says Kentucky’s Ban On Wine And Spirits In Grocery Stores Is Unconstitutional

August 15, 2012

U.S. District Court Judge John G. Heyburn II wrote in an opinion issued Monday that Kentucky’s decades-old law allowing wine and spirits sales in drugstores but not in grocery stores and gas stations is unconstitutional under the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. The decision was a victory for the plaintiffs in the case, Louisville convenience store Maxwell’s Pic-Pac, and its allies the Food With Wine Coalition.

Judge Heyburn rejected Kentucky’s argument that the ban on wine and spirits sales in grocery stores and other retail outlets besides drugstores was crucial to its efforts to control beverage alcohol consumption. Asserting that the state may still exert control over access by limiting the number of licenses granted a certain area, Heyburn said the state’s argument “does not explain why a grocery-selling drugstore like Walgreens may sell wine and liquor, but a pharmaceutical-selling grocery store like Kroger cannot.”

Following the decision, Kentucky’s restrictions on retail wine and spirits sales will remain in place until a process for allowing formerly disenfranchised venues like Maxwell’s to apply for licenses has been settled on. Currently, the state does allow some grocery stores to sell wine and spirits, but only from stores physically separate from their grocery outlets, a requirement that doesn’t extend to drugstores.


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