Legislation Introduced To Allow Wine Sales In Grocery Stores

The 2015 Regular Session for the Kentucky General Assembly is officially underway. Predictably, numerous pieces of proposed legislation are being introduced by the Senate and House of Representatives. One such bill is House Bill 90 (“HB 90”), entitled: An ACT relating to licensing retail food establishments (grocery stores) to sell packaged wine. The Bill is being sponsored by Representative Larry Clark.

HB 90 would amend KRS Chapter 243 to create a “retail food establishment wine license,” which would allow grocery stores to sell wine to their customers at retail. Under current law, grocery stores in Kentucky are currently prohibited by law from selling wine or liquor. This regime is a boon for package liquor store operators — but the grocery industry has aggressively sought to change the law over the past few years. See, e.g., Maxwell’s Pic-Pac, Inc., et al. v. Dehner, et al., 739 F.3d 936 (6th Cir. 2014).

HB 90 would effectively put the debate to rest. If it is passed, grocery stores that are at least 10,000 square feet, and maintain at least $20,000 in fresh meat, produce, frozen food, or dairy products, could receive a non-quota “retail food establishment wine license.” The license would cost a grocer $500 for the state-issued license, and there would be an unlimited supply of such licenses available.

For grocery store operators, HB 90 represents an excellent opportunity to generate revenue from the sale of wine. However, the Bill is certainly not without its opponents. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out during the Regular Session in Frankfort.

Mark Hervey and Patrick Hughes are attorneys in the law firm of Dressman Benzinger LaVelle, with offices in Cincinnati, Ohio, Crestview Hills, Kentucky, and Louisville, Kentucky.