Murray makes progress allowing alcohol sales after midnight

Evan Watson/The News
Evan Watson/The News

Evan Watson/The News

It’s not often we take to the editorial pages to praise the city of Murray, but you have to give it credit where credit is due. Following the second reading of an ordinance allowing taverns to stay open until 1:30 a.m., the Murray City Council voted 6-4 in approval, extending the current midnight deadline for alcohol sales.

The extension of sale hours was approved by the city council largely as a means of combating an increase in the number of public intoxication arrests.

Alcohol Beverage Control Administrator Sergeant Kendra Clere presented this information to the city council at its September meeting. Clere said the increase was probably related to bars closing in Murray at midnight.

This is making it difficult to find a ride home when many bar patrons choose to use cabs to travel south to Puryear, Tenn., where drinking is allowed until 3 a.m.

This is a tremendous step forward for Murray. We have seen, firsthand, the benefit that alcohol sales have brought to Murray. Tax revenue which had previously flown south now has stays in Murray.

We have seen new businesses start up as a result of alcohol sales in Murray, too.

Bars, taverns and packaged sales alike have contributed much-needed tax revenue to the city treasury and created jobs in Murray.

The extension of sale hours in taverns will no doubt bring in more revenue for the city and allow for even more opportunities for growth and job creation in our backyard.

But it’s still a ‘baby step’ forward. The city may have extended alcohol sales until 1:30 a.m., but what’s to stop bar patrons who normally leave for Puryear at midnight from simply waiting an hour and a half and heading south then, too?

Wouldn’t it make much more sense to simply extend those hours to their legal limit in Kentucky? Kentucky law allows alcohol sales between 6 a.m. and 4 a.m., but sales are ultimately left up to counties, who have the right to limit sales and consumption as they see fit.

Tennessee law limits sales at 3 a.m. If the city council is serious about stopping people from heading south (and potentially attracting bargoers to head north, to Murray), why not extend the deadline all the way to the legal limit?

It’s not just the time limit that doesn’t hold up to further scrutiny, either. Why does this hourly extension only apply to taverns?

Why shouldn’t one be able to purchase packaged liquor or liquor by the drink at a restaurant (if they can find one that’s still open and still serving alcohol) at 1:30 a.m.?

Why deprive ourselves from further sources of revenue?

There are other restrictions on alcohol sales worth changing, too. Kentucky law does not ban alcohol sales on Sunday, yet the city of Murray does for reasons unknown.

How is Sunday any different of a day of the week from Saturday? And why alcohol?

You can buy a number of products that are far more harmful than booze on Sunday. Cigarettes, handguns, rat poison – all of these things are available for purchase on a Sunday in Murray, but heaven forbid we allow the sale of wine or beer on a Sunday.

Public intoxication, which is at the root of this change in the law, is even something worth looking into. Why is it illegal for a person to be intoxicated in public to begin with?

We can understand locking someone up in a drunk tank for being rowdy and unmanageable in public, but locking up someone for being drunk without taking into account how they handle it?

Being drunk in public is not the same as being a rowdy drunk in public.

At any rate, these questions should not take away from the great step forward that the city has made in approving this ordinance.

It is a good first step toward a more humane and sensible policy toward alcohol in this city, and one that we hope will be revisited and improved in the days to come.


Our view