Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

Opinion

March 18, 2014

Alcohol sales at Carter Caves lodge now makes lot of sense

The next step

OLIVE HILL — With Olive Hill residents voting last week to legalize alcohol sales and Grayson voting to the same last year, Carter County is now a “wet” county, for all intents and purposes.

Given that, we hope the state will now consider licensing alcohol sales at one place in the county that could really benefit from them — Carter Caves State Resort Park.

The park is located between Grayson and Olive Hill, but, since it isn’t within the city limits of either, that means it’s an area that’s still legally “dry.” However, under the law, the state can issue liquor licenses for state parks irrespective of whether they’re located in wet or dry territories. However, to date, the state has opted to respect the standards of the communities in which the parks are located and hasn’t pursued alcohol sales at any parks in dry areas.

In 2011, the state received licenses for alcohol sales in the dining rooms at Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonsburg, General Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton and Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz and beer sales at the golf courses at My Old Kentucky Home State Park in Bardstown and John James Audubon Park in Henderson. All of these parks are in wet territories.

 A previous review of the parks system noted that alcohol sales at some parks could improve meeting bookings, overall volume of business, and support for special events and golf operations. And, nearly a year after sales began, all of the parks reported strong interest, with sales at the five parks totaling more than $150,000, and increased occupancy.

None of the parks have bars or lounges, and, at the resort parks, there is a two-drink-per guest limit unless food is ordered from the restaurant menus. Officials said the goal was to create atmospheres in park restaurants similar to those of casual-dining eateries, where diners who want to order alcoholic beverages with their meals are free to and those who don’t wish to imbide can order iced tea or soft drinks.

Kentucky has 50 state parks, of which 17 are resort parks with lodges, dining areas and conference spaces. The state parks department operates 18 golf courses.

We believe there more than a few diners in the restaurant in Caveland Lodge who would appreciate having the option of being able to order beer, wine or cocktails with their meals, and that golfers would enjoy being able to purchase a round of cold beers after completing a game on the park’s nine-hole course. We certainly don’t see the harm in either, and we also think alcohol sales might prompt more folks to consider Carter Caves when making plans for a vacation or weekend getaway.

 State officials said in 2011 that there were no plans to expand alcohol sales to additional parks unless the communities in which they are located voted wet. With Grayson and Olive Hill both having done so, we think it’s definitely time for them to revisit that decision.

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