Liquor Mart filed an appeal last month to the March ruling by Boyle Circuit Judge Darren Peckler dismissing Liquor Mart’s lawsuit alleging the General Assembly violated state law last year when it upgraded Junction City from a Fifth Class city to Fourth Class, paving the way for the vote on alcohol sales.
Liquor Mart contends that in Kentucky a city must have a population of at least 3,000 people to be designated Fourth Class, the smallest classification in which a local option election on alcohol sales can be held. Junction City performed its own headcount in 2008 that tallied 3,200 residents but the 2010 Census put the population at 2,241.
Liquor Mart, which also has stores in Lancaster and Richmond, states it invested a lot of money in its Danville location in part because Junction City did not have enough residents to qualify for alcohol sales. Business at the Danville store has suffered since beer went on sale in Junction in January, the lawsuit contends.
Peckler ruled, however, that the state legislature acted within its constitutional authority when it passed a law upgrading Junction City to Fourth Class. The legislature is not bound by law to reclassify cities only on population figures; it also can consider such things as tax base, form of government, geography “or any other reasonable basis,” Peckler said in his ruling, citing the statute.
In its appeal, Liquor Mart questions if Peckler erred in dismissing its lawsuit and whether Junction City’s ordinance allowing liquor sales should be “voided” based on the General Assembly’s decision to make Junction a Fourth Class city in spite of the fact the reclassification “was based on clearly erroneous population information.”
Even though Junction City’s two liquor licenses were awarded in February, Nelson Grubbs said the state’s thicket of complicated laws involving alcohol sales and the legal challenge from Liquor Mart initially gave him and his father pause before sinking money into a liquor store.
“It did roll around in our minds that we didn’t want to put up a quarter-million dollar business and then have to fight for it in court,” Nelson Grubbs said. “Judge Peckler’s decision was the ‘green light’ for us. Everything in life is a chance, so we went ahead and gambled. We’re assuming the judge and the legislators have done the job in the right way so we won’t have to worry about the lawsuit.”
Grubbs said he figures it was Liquor Mart’s strategy to keep the matter “tied up in court” for as long as possible, hoping to delay a competitor from opening up south of Danville. Junction City is now the southernmost location on U.S 127 to allow alcohol sales. After passing through Junction headed south, the next place you can buy a beer is Static, Tenn.
Grubbs expects to generate good business as the first/last alcohol stop for travelers headed both directions on U.S. 127. But he also expects the reputation he and his father have earned operating Grubbs Body Shop in Junction City for many years to bring in customers from Junction and Danville as well.
Antle, whose store is located off the beaten bath of U.S. 127, said he is counting more on local trade than passersby.
“What my business is about is local,” he said. “I’ve had customers here for 35 years, and I figure they’ll continue to support me.”
Grubbs said he thinks there are enough customers to go around for everyone, including Liquor Mart.
“They should have plenty of business. They don’t need to worry about what’s happening five miles down the road,” he said.
Junction City Mayor Jim Douglas, who stopped by Antle’s on Wednesday, said he hopes both businesses thrive, noting a recent report that alcohol sales had generated nearly $800,000 in revenue for the City of Danville.
“We’ve got a couple of police cruisers that are in pretty rough shape,” he said.