alcohol sales

A federal appeals court has reinstated a 76-year-old old ban on grocery stores, gas stations and other retailers selling wine and liquor in Kentucky after finding the law doesn't violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a decision by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn in 2012 to lift the restriction.

Judge Deborah L. Cook wrote for the court that the state "indisputably maintains a legitimate interest" in reducing access to high-alcohol content products.

A Louisville convenience store, Maxwell's Pic-Pac, and the Food with Wine Coalition challenged the ban in a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2011. The plaintiffs said the law treated them differently from package liquor stores simply because they sold food and other staples.

The Kentucky State Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would remove the prohibition of alcohol sales on election days while polls are open.

The bill wouldn't supersede the authority of dry counties in determining alcohol availability—but areas that wanted to continue the prohibition of election day alcohol sales could vote to do so.

One aim of the bill: Business that rely on alcohol sales—and also tourist destinations along Kentucky's Bourbon Trail—would be allowed to remain open on election days.

State Sen. Jimmy Higdon, a Republican from Lebanon, said keeping the Bourbon Trail fully operational on election days was a reason for his support.

If a federal judge's ruling goes into effect, businesses that sell liquor in Kentucky may see increased competition — and those businesses are encouraging legislators to act before an appeals  decision comes down.

Judge John Heyburn tossed the laws last year,  saying it was unconstitutional to allow places like drug stores to sell some wine and liquor, but not groceries.

But Heyburn put that ruling on hold to let lawmakers re-write the laws. Since that point, interested groups have been working on solutions to keep a free-for-all for liquor licenses across the state from happening.

State Senate President Robert Stivers says he wants to wait on an appeals ruling in the case  are finished before lawmakers tackle the issue.

But Roger Leasor, the Director of Community Relations with Liquor Barn, a company that owns many liquor stores across Kentucky, says that's a bad idea.

Some southeastern Kentucky residents say campaigns on a vote that could allow alcohol sales in the community have taken a negative turn. McCreary County voters head to the polls next Tuesday to decide the controversial issue.