LEXINGTON, Ky. — The future of November's governor's race was a big focus of Kentucky's primary election, but for some places like Madison County, a special decision was also on their ballot.

What You Need To Know

  • Madison County voters said “yes” to legal liquor sales in a historically moist county

  • One business owner said it's the first time voters have weighed in on liquor sales since Prohibition

  • It took 7,600 signatures to get the measure on the ballot

While liquor sales are not new for the area, it’s a big change for a small town like Berea, Kentucky. When Mayor Bruce Fraley was a kid, he said packaged alcohol sales were designated to specific precincts in Richmond alone. 

Now, voters are saying yes to a wet community countywide. 

“This was a citizen-led effort to get enough signatures, to get it on the ballot, to begin with, and then again, this is one of those few things they get to vote on directly,” Fraley explained.

Wesley Browne is an attorney, the owner of Apollo Pizza and a longtime advocate for the ballot measure.

The business owner started a petition that required nearly 7,600 signatures — which they exceeded by the deadline. 

He said he saw a pattern in other precincts being denied liquor licensing, which led him to going for a countywide strategy. Getting the signatures, though, was a challenge.

“The signatures were the really hard part. We felt confident if we got it on the ballot that it would pass and we did do some work after it was on the ballot, but it was tough to get it on the ballot,” said Browne. 

But with the vote now secured, Fraley says it was a fair conversation in the community. “We had good people on both sides of the issue, close friends and business associates, and even government officials who were in favor, and those who were opposed, so ultimately, I think what we do is, we have to respect the will of the people.” 

Browne says as a business owner it’s about having a place to enjoy an alcoholic beverage without traveling. “We don’t make a lot of money on alcohol sales. We make our money on the increased food sales we get by the fact that you can get a beer or a glass of wine with a pizza,” said Browne. 

In the meantime, places like Berea are shifting from drinks in certain restaurants to broader retail sales.

Fraley says their focus is on making sure people are heard, and that Berea maintains a good quality of life for all. 

Browne says this marks the first time Madison County voters could weigh in on liquor sales since prohibition. His restaurant plans to apply for a license as soon as they are available.