Alcohol sales banned on Election Day until polls close

Don’t try to celebrate your vote with a drink.

On Tuesday, the sale of alcohol is prohibited until polls close at 6 p.m.

KRS 244.290 is a state law that prohibits the sale of alcohol on any Election Day while polls are open. It origins are rooted in the 1930s, when saloons sometimes served as polling stations.

South Carolina is the only other state to have a total ban on Election Day alcohol sales, according to the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

The law is anachronistic, critics say, and result in lost revenue. Most businesses view it as a day to catch up on inventory or cleaning, while students say they just have to plan ahead of drinking was in their plans.

ImageThe law is more than just an inconvenience, opponents argue. It’s anachronistic.

“The Election Day sales ban is a relic of the Prohibition era when saloons sometimes served as polling stations,” DISCUS Vice President Ben Jenkins told Yahoo! News. “Repealing the ban on Election Day alcohol sales would provide consumers with much-needed convenience—whether they’re celebrating election returns or mourning them.”

Democratic state Rep. Arnold Simpson said that the law costs the state approximately $600,000 in tax revenue from being closed for state and national elections.

“Our businesses have a few days every year where they have to completely change the way they operate,” Simpson told the Lexington Herald-Leader.

He has been trying to repeal the law since 2006, including renewed efforts this spring. He noted that Indiana passed a bill in 2010 that now allows Election Day sales.

What he wants is a choice for local governments to either continue or lift the ban on alcohol sales, a decision they can make on an individual rather than state-wide basis. In a proposed bill, he writes that the impact of his bill on local governments would “likely be minimal.”

He also wants licensed alcohol retailers to remain open during Election Day as long as they have “a separate locked department in which all stock” is kept during poll hours.

While that option isn’t available to retailers now, they do have a chance to be productive on a day they’re normally open. John Burke, a manager at Two Keys Tavern, said the day off will allow for some minor repairs to the bar that normally couldn’t happen.

“It gives us a day to shut down without really shutting down,” Burke said.

The financial hit is “not bad,” Burke said, because it’s a mid-week happy hour shift that isn’t usually a high-business time.

For students who might have planned on drinking after voting, they simply must plan ahead and stock up Monday night.

“I’m not drinking that night. It’s still a Tuesday and we have school,” Cliff Hartley said. “But if I was, I still could. I may not be able to buy a drink on Election Day, but I could still drink on Election Day if I wanted.”

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