City Commission passes first reading of packaged alcohol sales amendment

Published 9:30 am Thursday, September 21, 2023

During Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, the first reading and vote of a potential amendment to a previously established ordinance in the Winchester Code of Ordinances, which would allow for package alcohol sales from 1-8 p.m. on Sunday, took place.

The first reading passed by a narrow 3-2 vote, opening the door for such an amendment.

A second reading will occur at the 5:30 p.m. meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 3, Winchester City Commissioners Kenny Book, Kitty Strode, and Hannah Toole – who made the initial motion for the amendment – were the “Yes” votes.

Email newsletter signup

Commissioner Shannon Cox and Winchester Mayor JoEllen Reed were the “No” votes.

“I was elected to this position as the newest, youngest person in the community – I would assume – for a voice that hasn’t been heard in a while,” said Toole. “Aside from asking for your vote to simply support this and move forward more so, I ask you to vote yes tonight to allow [us] to continue this discussion because one meeting for our community to participate in is not enough to have a full discussion about what we should have happen in our community.”

At the last meeting of the City Commission on Tuesday, Sept. 5, a discussion and vote had taken place regarding the ordinance amendment.

The potential ordinance change was voted against 3-2 at that time.

While a procedural error allowed the first reading of the ordinance and vote to occur on Sept. 19, Mayor Reed sought to clarify.

“I have consulted with the Kentucky League of Cities attorney today, and she said it really was not a big deal,” Reed said. “No one was trying to hide anything. No one was trying to do anything different that we shouldn’t have been doing we were unanimous in wanting to vote, not knowing that procedurally, the title of the ordinance had [accidentally] not been read.”

With the floor open to discussion, several local Winchester residents spoke in favor of the amendment change.

Among them was Tiffani Hays, who showed a petition with approximately 270 signatures indicating support for the amendment.

“Businesses would be able to be open on Sundays and would be able to incur additional revenue for one extra day of the week if they chose to do so,” Hays said. “That means a lot during post-COVID times.”

Mike Murphy, owner of Murfs ByPass Liquors, was one business owner who spoke.

“I have multiple people every Sunday come and knock on the door trying to get in, thinking that we are open,” Murphy said. “Every Sunday, I’m directing them to Lexington. I would like to know that, if it does pass, I do have the option to [be] open on Sunday.”

Others present who spoke in favor of accepting the amendment referred to items such as having a beneficial impact on tourism, competing with nearby cities, and accommodating different individuals.

However, not all were in support.

Commissioner Cox and Mayor Reed asserted that their objections were not religious-based.

“I just don’t want to see the change made,” Reed said. “I just don’t think we need anything else. In my opinion, if I want [alcohol], I can go buy that [six days a week]. On Sundays, no, but I need to prepare for that.”

Reed also mentioned receiving approximately 8,000 emails and text messages against the amendment and emphasized any potential negative impact it might have on kids.

Among other points, Cox spoke of integrity and referenced 2013 – when he voted to favor Sunday sales by the drink.

“I was told by somebody that they will never ask for an expansion of alcohol sales, and this is the fifth time [it’s] come back,” Cox said. “I said, ‘I won’t vote for it,’ and they said, ‘We understand.’”

Others who spoke with concerns about the amendment brought up issues such as mental health and sought input from law enforcement.

Book, who initially voted against the amendment at the last Commission meeting, was the swing vote for the amendment.

He referred to an email sent from resident Adam Kidd.

“The reason I voted no last time is nobody was here to speak up,” Book said. “[The email] said that there were two different businesses looking to move in and expand to Winchester. I don’t drink. I wouldn’t buy beer anytime, but I think we need to bring more payroll taxes in instead of having to raise any taxes.”

With the first reading complete, many in the Commission hope for a positive future.

“It hurts my heart that the community only comes out when there’s something that they don’t agree with and never comes in these Commission chambers and says, ‘Thank you,’” Reed said. “We’re not [serving] for the money… we’re doing it because we love this community.”