Lawsuit says Harrodsburg alcohol vote was three days too early

December 10, 2003|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - A lawsuit has been filed contesting the election that would make sale of liquor by the drink legal here.

The plaintiffs claim that the vote was held three days short of three years since the last such election, which was Nov. 7, 2000.

The law requires there be three years between local option elections of this sort. This year's General Election was held Nov. 4. General Elections are set by law to be on the second Tuesday in November.

The lawsuit has been filed by Carl Toth, William Toth, Mark Gray, August Properties LLC, and Mark Edwards and Lees Inc. Carl and William Toth are residents of Harrodsburg and the lawsuit says both men voted in the election. Edwards and Gray do not live in the city, but have businesses here, the lawsuit says.


None of the people who campaigned to first have the question put on the ballot and then campaigned to get it passed is named in the suit. The named defendants in the case are elected and election officials in Mercer County.

The defendants are Mercer County Sheriff Ralph Anderson, a member of the county board of elections, Board of Election Commissioners Daryl Catlett and Ann Robinson, Mercer County Clerk Ronnie Compton, interim Clerk Bruce Harper, Mercer County Judge-Executive John Trisler and the city of Harrodsburg.

State law says that when an election is contested it is the elected and election officials who must be named in any action and all are sued because of the offices they hold.

While the defendants must be given 20 days to respond to a complaint, the plaintiffs are seeking a ruling from Mercer Circuit Judge Darren Peckler saying the election was illegal and the election null and void. The case further seeks an injunction to prohibit the sale of liquor licenses to restaurants that seat at least 100 people and who receive 70 percent of receipts from the sale of food.

That process has already begun. At least three restaurant owners have inquired about the purchase of liquor licenses and one has gone forward with the process. Phyllis Hurst, owner of Ann's Family Restaurant, has advertised her intent to seek a license and has sent an application to the state to gain such a license.

Hurst plans to remodel her restaurant and rename it Rookies Bar and Grill and she hopes to reopen in mid January.

Rafael Ayala, manager of LaFonda's, said Saturday that the restaurant he oversees only seats 75 people and if it can expand into a vacant building next door and south of LaFonda's, then they will seek a license. Chuck Dedman, innkeeper at Beaumont Inn, has plans to build a service bar in the back of the restaurant from which waiters can get drinks ordered by customers.

All of this has been made possible by the election and an ordinance passed last month by the Harrodsburg City Commission. The new city law sets the price of licenses, the tax on liquor sales, the hours of sale and names City Clerk Lorene Hembree as the Alcohol Beverage Control administrator.

No one appeared at either reading of the ordinance to protest its passage, but it all still could be brought to a standstill if the plaintiffs get their wish to stop the sale of licenses until a trial can be held on the validity of the election.

None of the defendants contacted would comment on the lawsuit; several were not aware the complaint had been filed until it was served on them Tuesday.

Harrodsburg City Attorney David Taylor and Mercer County Attorney Douglas Greenburg said they hadn't had time to read the complaint, but they likely are to be the attorneys defending city and county elected officials.

Mayor Lonnie Campbell said a meeting was scheduled for this afternoon for the people named in the case to discuss how to proceed.

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