JUNCTION CITY — Beer has been on Junction City store shelves less than a month, but officials already face legal fire for allowing alcohol sales.
Junction City resident Joseph O. Perry and Liquor Mart of Danville are suing the City Council, Mayor Jim Douglas and others for allegedly violating state laws that require fourth-class cities — the smallest allowed to sell alcohol — to have populations of at least 3,000.
However, the Kentucky legislature passed a bill upgrading Junction City from fifth to fourth class in March, and residents voted 198-195 in October to allow liquor sales, retail beer sales and alcohol by the drink at restaurants.
Liquor Mart’s lawsuit — filed in Boyle Circuit Court by lawyer T. Bruce Simpson Jr. of Lexington — claims business owners “invested substantial sums of money” in the Danville store because Junction City did not have a large enough population to allow alcohol sales. Now Junction City’s alcohol sales are damaging Liquor Mart’s business, it states.
Mayor Douglas said he has read the lawsuit but has not yet discussed it with the City Council or City Attorney Brad Guthrie. He also was unsure what connection Junction City resident Perry has to the case becuase he is not the local owner.
“I don’t know what (Liquor Mart’s) angle is,” Douglas said. “I have no clue, but I still thought we lived in free enterprise.”
Simpson, the attorney, did not return The Advocate-Messenger’s phone calls.
Douglas said he is certain Junction City has a population of at least 3,000, despite 2010 Census numbers that estimated the population to be 2,241.
The Kentucky legislature did not have Census data when discussing the bill to reclassify Junction City or the cities of Guthrie in Todd County, Greensburg in Green County and Midway in Woodford County. But the legislature did consider a 2008 Junction City resolution that estimated its population at more than 3,200 based on a city count, and an estimate of 3,214 from the Census Bureau’s 2005-2009 American Community Survey results, which were released last January.
Liquor Mart’s suit contends that the resolution is neither true nor based in fact and asks the court to declare Junction City’s fourth-class reclassification “null, void, unconstitutional and without force and effect.” It also asks the court to prohibit alcohol sales in the city until it has a population of at least 3,000, though it does not specify by what count.
Douglas said he is positive the city already has reached the number and Guthrie will file a brief stating as much.
In the meantime, two Junction City businesses — Redi Mart/Shell on U.S. 127 and Quick Stop/Marathon on Hustonville Road — will continue selling beer, he said.