Lexington looks to expand Sunday alcohol sales for bars, restaurants but not stores

Restaurants and bars may soon start selling alcohol at 6 a.m. on Sundays in Fayette County.

A committee of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Council voted 9-1 Tuesday to move forward a change to the city’s alcohol ordinance that would treat Sunday alcohol sales the same as other days of the week for restaurants and bars.

The original proposal was to change all alcohol sales on Sunday, including package alcohol sales, to 6 a.m.

Currently, Lexington restaurants and bars can start serving alcohol at 11 a.m. Package sales start at 1 p.m.

But several council members raised concerns about expanding package sales on Sundays. The committee voted 6-4 to remove the expansion of package alcohol sales from the ordinance.

The ordinance will get a first reading at a Thursday council meeting. A final vote is expected Dec. 7.

Many in the hospitality industry said the restrictions on alcohol sales hurt sales on the weekends. It’s also confusing for retailers, restaurants and bars.

“Lexington is a tourist destination with a signature industry that includes bourbon,” said District 10 Councilman David Sevigny during the Tuesday Social Services and Public Safety Committee meeting. “Weekends are the biggest draw.”

Sevigny sponsored the ordinance.

One restaurant owner told Sevigny allowing expanded alcohol sales could help boost profits by more than $500,000, he said.

VisitLex, the city’s tourism bureau, backed the change in the ordinance, as did restaurant trade groups.

“Sundays tend to be the busiest day of the week for restaurants serving breakfast and lunch,” according to a statement from the Kentucky Restaurant Association. “Guests, especially those from out of town, are often surprised that they can’t order an alcoholic beverage before 11 a.m.”

Council members raise questions about package alcohol sales

Vice Mayor Dan Wu, a former restaurant owner, said he supported the change for restaurants and bars for economic development reasons. However, he wasn’t opposed to removing package alcohol sales.

Sevigny said he couldn’t find any data showing if expansion of package sales contributed to public intoxication charges or driving under influence.

Sevigny said Lexington Police Department data shows DUI do increase later at night and the early morning hours, he said.

Councilwoman Tayna Fogle said she doesn’t oppose the measure but she has concerns about package sales. Fogle said the city spends millions on homelessness services and for addiction treatment.

“I would like the community to weigh in on this,” Fogle said.

Councilman Fred Brown said he was opposed to the expansion and voted against it.

“Sunday is still important to me,” Brown said. “I don’t see the need for this.”