Hopkinsville City Council votes unanimously in favor of Sunday alcohol sales

The decision came amid a notable shift in local public sentiment about drinking. In 2003 and 2005, Hopkinsville churches were vocal in their opposition to Sunday alcohol sales.

No member of the public came forward to speak against Sunday alcohol sales when city council met Tuesday night to consider lifting the 63-year-old prohibition in Hopkinsville.

The public comment portion of the meeting had no takers shortly before the council voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance that will allow alcohol sales in package stores, bars and restaurants from 11 a.m. on Sunday to 2 a.m. on Monday. The ordinance maintains the ban on alcohol sales during elections and on Christmas Day. It will require a second reading to become law.

Tuesday’s decision was a notable shift from the public sentiment on display in 2003 when dozens of speakers came forward in a series of city council hearings to oppose a tweak in Hopkinsville’s alcoholic beverage law to allow liquor by the drink in larger restaurants. Facing stiff opposition from churches and their members, it failed that year with a 6-to-6 tie council vote that then-Mayor Rich Liebe, citing his Christian faith, broke by voting against it. Two years later, opponents spoke out again but the council mustered eight votes in favor of liquor by the drink. Liebe immediately vetoed their action, and the council voted to override his veto. 

But discussions over the past several weeks suggested a vastly different view of Sunday alcohol sales in Hopkinsville. 

During a Committee of the Whole meeting on April 21, most council members had stated their support for lifting all of the Sunday alcohol restrictions. Some council members said they didn’t want to legislate a decision about whether it was OK to drink on Sunday or any other day. Councilwoman Amy Craig said she never drinks but didn’t think it was her place tell others they couldn’t buy alcohol on Sunday when it was legal other days of the week.

Only council member Patricia Waddell-Bell, who recalled the stress council members endured during the 2003 and 2005 debates, indicated any opposition to the measure during early discussions. However, without comment, she joined the other council members in favor of the ordinance on Tuesday.

Councilman Terry Parker — who said there had been a lot of discussion about “putting Hopkinsville on an even playing field” with places like Clarksville, Tennessee — offered an amendment allowing sales to continue until 2 a.m. on Mondays. The ordinance originally required sales to end at 1 a.m.

Hopkinsville resident Daniel Brechwald started the campaign to lift the ban on Sunday alcohol sales and presented his argument at an April 6 council meeting. Brechwald said the Sunday ban was a burden on personal freedoms and bad for the local economy. Hopkinsville residents who wanted to buy beer, wine or liquor on Sunday could go to Oak Grove or Clarksville to do business.

The proposal moved even quicker than Brechwald expected. He thought the council wouldn’t vote on the proposal until June. 

Brechwald was present in council chambers for Tuesday’s vote. Immediately after the ordinance passed, he turned and shook hands with a few supporters of his campaign, including Chamber of Commerce president Taylor Hayes and Hopkinsville Brewing Co. owners Kate Russell and Joey Medeiros. 

A vote for final passage of the ordinance will likely be on Thursday, May 19. Normally the council would meet on May 17, but that is Election Day. Mayor Wendell Lynch said he’s considering a special meeting before the Committee of the Whole session on May 19. 

Hopkinsville City Council votes unanimously in favor of Sunday alcohol sales

Jennifer P. Brown | Hoptown Chronicle

Jennifer P. Brown is co-founder, publisher and editor of Hoptown Chronicle. You can reach her at editor@hoptownchronicle.org. She spent 30 years as a reporter and editor at the Kentucky New Era. She is a co-chair of the national advisory board to the Institute for Rural Journalism and Community Issues, governing board president for the Kentucky Historical Society, and co-founder of the Kentucky Open Government Coalition.