(AP) – Kentucky’s seven-decade old ban on grocery stores, gas stations and other retailers selling wine and liquor is unconstitutional because it violates the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution, a federal judge ruled.
U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II ordered that the ban may remain in place for the time being because there are other legal issues to sort out.
Heyburn said in a 9-page opinion issued Monday that the state legislature “wanted to limit liquor sales generally … and it did so by arbitrarily distinguishing grocers from all other retailers” when the law was adopted.
“Perhaps back then grocers were different from other potential alcohol vendors in some manner that rationally related to the sale of liquor and wine. If so, none of those differences appear today; most drugstores sell staples and some grocers sell prescription drugs,” Heyburn wrote.
Heyburn noted that some grocery stores have obtained a retail package liquor license for a separate store on the same grounds.
“This does not negate the underlying injury, however,” Heyburn wrote. “To the contrary, it demonstrates the financial burdens a grocery store must undertake to sell wine and liquor.”
A Louisville convenience store, Maxwell’s Pic-Pac, and the Food with Wine Coalition challenged the ban in a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2011. The plaintiffs said the law treated them differently from package liquor stores simply because they sold food and other staples.
The ruling impacts only areas of Kentucky where sales of package wine and distilled spirits are currently permitted by law. In a statement, the Food with Wine Coalition said Kentucky now joins a list of approximately 36 other states allowing consumers to add wine and distilled spirits to their shopping cart as they shop for food.
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