UPDATE 9/17/30 @ 3:40 p.m.
LOUISA, Ky. (WSAZ) -- The Lawrence County Attorney says the wet-dry petition for the City of Louisa is invalid.
In a press release Tuesday, Michael T. Hogan said after a review of the wet-dry petition submitted to the Lawrence County Clerk to set a wet-dry election is invalid under Kentucky law.
Hogan says that under changes to Kentucky law earlier this year, only the first four class cities are permitted to sell alcohol.
Louisa is a class five city. The classes are primarily based on population.
Hogan says that there are options with moving forward. He says the petition can be rewritten and it be called a "moist vote", which means alcohol could be sold in some restaurants, organizers can ask for the city to be reclassified, or they can challenge it in court.
In the press release, Hogan said he personally opposes the city going wet, but his legal opinion is not based on personal feelings.
The city of Louisa has been dry since the 1940s, and Lawrence County Clerk Chris Jobe says he can’t recall any petitions for wet-dry votes since then. The petition would need about 210 signatures – or 25 percent of the 835 voters who participated in Louisa’s last general election.
But Kentucky’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) laws are unclear when it comes to cities the size of Louisa, or cities with fewer than 3,000 people. That technicality could prevent Louisa, a fifth-class city, from holding an election on this issue while the ABC reviews it.
“The town looks like a ghost town. The only reason it’s alive is like around the first of the month when people get their check, the town is busy,” Larry Hinson, who lives in Louisa, said. “But if it was wet, it'd boom.”
The petition has more than double the number of required signatures, but Jobe said not all of them are people who live in city limits.
“My job is to assist the county judge in verifying signatures of the registered voters to make sure that the percentage of voters qualify on the petition,” Jobe said.
Dale Metz supports alcohol sales in Louisa, even though he lives elsewhere in the county, about 13 miles outside of Louisa. He said he just moved to Kentucky from Texas and was surprised that the county was dry.
“First time I went into Wal-Mart, I was like, ‘Oh! You know, you can’t buy no beer,’” Metz said.
Metz said his family members and neighbors think that “it’s really ridiculous having a dry county or dry city” and that this would bring in much-needed revenue for Lawrence County.
“You can go to Boyd County and buy alcohol. You can go into West Virginia and buy alcohol,” Metz said. “People are doing it and bringing it back across the border, across county lines.”
The man who filed the petition, Gene Wilson, told WSAZ.com that he wants to see the whole city turn wet because “Louisa is in dire need of revenue.”
Wilson, an attorney in Louisa who recently opened a hotel there, said he could have just petitioned to make the city “moist” in order to open a restaurant inside or near his hotel. However, he said he also wants to help convenience stores in the city that could become package stores and bring in more money from alcohol sales.
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