City Council decides on liquor sales

Though deliberations continue within Murray City Council regarding alcohol sales, several key ordinances have either been ratified or created in recent sessions, further clearing up issues surrounding expanded licensing in Murray.

City Council members accepted amendments to the annual budget on Sept. 13, restating certain revenues and expenditures made available through the sale and distribution of alcohol in the city. This comes in compliance with the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, whose regulations state all funds acquired through liquor tax should provide for the prevention and control of alcoholic substances for the legalized area.

The tax on liquor, which, according to Kentucky tax law, can be set between 6 and 8 percent, sparked debate among council members deciding what would be the best fit for the area.

After a second reading of the ordinance, the Council voted 8-3 in favor of an 8 percent liquor tax, the highest available in the Commonwealth, making Murray’s one of the most expensive taxes in the state.

Councilman Dan Miller said the original intent was to keep the tax as low at 6 percent, so as to nurture local business and stimulate purchasing power, and then perhaps graduate into a higher tax rate as sales were gauged properly.

“We want to entice good businesses to come in,” Miller said. “I think this is a rip-off and is gouging the tax payers. We can do enough with 6 percent – we can always take it up, but I don’t think we will ever lower it.”

Councilman Pete Lancaster also chimed in on the issue, stating the Council could make amendments on policy further down the road.

“We could rescind the 8 percent and bring back the 6 percent originally recommended,” Lancaster said. “There is no reason to try and overcharge the citizens with the highest percentage tax in the Commonwealth. We are abusing our power as council members, gouging the pockets of our citizens.”

Councilwoman Linda Cherry did point out the ordinances must be addressed every year, so if needed the council could raise or lower the tax percentage from year to year should this be necessary.

Jay Morgan, who serves as a City Council member and is the University’s associate provost, said it could be as long as December or January before the first packaged liquor is sold in Murray, as regulations regarding zoning and construction of new establishments have not been completed.

Murray Chief of Police Jeff Liles acknowledged the future of at least three packaged liquor stores in city, while one 70/30 dining establishment is planning to apply for a tavern license. Businesses and potential owners can begin the application process today.

Though it is unconfirmed, businesses including Walgreen’s, Kroger, Wal-Mart, Huck’s and The Big Apple Cafe, among others, have all shown intent to apply for new or amended licensing, while many other potential business owners and investors are taking a wait-and-see approach.

For retail liquor drink sales, there can be one outlet for every 2,500 persons for cities of any size.

For retail package liquor sales, there can be only one outlet for every 2,300 persons for cities of any size.

Murray has a population of 17,893, leaving room for seven liquor by-the-drink establishments and seven retail package stores.

Story by Edward Marlowe, Staff writer.