ABC delays Mercer liquor licenses

March 11, 2004|ANN R. HARNEY

HARRODSBURG - Another stumbling block has been placed in the path of the sale of liquor by the drink in restaurants in this city.

Harold Robinson, distilled spirits administrator for the state's Alcohol Beverage Control office, talked with City Administrative Officer Ed Music Wednesday and handed down an edict.

Music said Robinson told him there would be no liquor licenses issued for Harrodsburg until the litigation on the matter was completed. Music said the state official did not want to issue licenses that might have to be revoked later.

Late last year, a lawsuit was filed against elected officials in the city and county. It challenged the outcome of the election that decided if alcohol by the drink could be sold in certain restaurants. The claim of the lawsuit is that a full three years did not pass between the last such vote in the city and the one held Nov. 4, 2003.


The previous election was held on Nov. 3, 2000. The lawsuit was 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.

Mercer Circuit Judge Darren Peckler ruled that the election was valid. Quoting a lawsuit similar to the one in his court, he said, "the court should not set aside an election 'due to slight irregularities.'"

Music said Robinson told him he had consulted ABC's attorneys and he was within his rights to make such a policy. Music also said Robinson told him such action was not unusual.

Restaurant owners, mayor unhappy with the ruling

Two restaurant owners and Harrodsburg's mayor are not happy with Robinson's ruling. "I don't see why they're putting it on hold," Mayor Lonnie Campbell said Wednesday.

"We just don't understand," said Chuck Dedman, innkeeper at Beaumont Inn. "There's been no injunction filed to stop the issuance of the license.

"I became concerned about it last week. We have completed all of our application forms, sent forms and money to the state and had background checks done. No one ever called us to say there has been an injunction."

Phillis Hurst, owner of Ann's Family Restaurant, was not aware of Robinson's ruling until she was contacted for this story. She was a surprised and concerned.

"I applied for a state license two weeks ago," Hurst said. "They told us to go ahead and apply. I got a letter back telling me I did not have to pay background checks for two employees and they returned my check for $30 and said to send in a check for $10."

Hurst has remodeled part of the restaurant and the Dedmans are building a service bar from which to fill drink orders. The inn is scheduled to reopen for the year on March 17.

Calls to Robinson were forwarded to Dan Gahafer, who is in charge of media and public relations for ABC. Gahafer said the ruling had been made by Robinson because the lawsuit was being appealed. When told the lawsuit has not been appealed, Gahafer said he would have to talk to Robinson again, but he has not called back, and repeated calls to his office were answered by voicemail.

Mark Gray said the decision about whether to appeal the case likely will be made today. Calls to Douglas McSwain, one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, and Bradley Guthrie, one of the Dedmans' attorneys, were not returned. The Dedmans asked to be made part of the lawsuit, and their request was approved by the court.

Gray said today that the case could not be appealed until Peckler entered his order in the case. That was done March 5, Gray said, leaving little time to appeal so far. While the judge made his ruling Feb. 12. The plaintiffs have 30 days after the order is entered to appeal.

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