LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Sept. 5, 2012) — State alcohol beverage control officials have appealed a ruling issued last month that the prohibition of liquor and wine sales in grocery stores and gas stations is unconstitutional.
U.S. District Judge John Heyburn II in August ruled in favor of the Food with Wine Coalition and Maxwell’s Pic-Pac Inc., a Louisville grocery store, which had filed suit against Robert Vance, secretary of the Kentucky Public Protection Cabinet; Tony Denher, commissioner of the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control; and Danny Reed, distilled spirits administrator of the Kentucky ABC Commission.
Prohibiting Kentucky grocery stores and gas stations from applying for retail package liquor and wine licenses — while allowing other establishments to do so — is unconstitutional, Heyburn ruled. State laws and administrative regulations preventing grocery stores from obtaining licenses to sell package liquor and wine is a violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, he said.
There is no basis for distinguishing among retailers and permitting all retailers except for grocers and fuel sellers to apply for the limited number of available package liquor and wine sales licenses, the judge said.
State ABC officials appealed Heyburn’s ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which could decide whether to uphold or overturn the ruling.
Dehner and Reed filed a motion in district court today to stay Heyburn’s ruling, pending the appeal, according to Business First of Louisville. That would stop — at least temporarily — grocery stores and gas stations from obtaining licenses to sell wine and package liquor. The men argue that they are likely to win the appeal and that there is a substantial public interest in granting the stay.