Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 22, 2013

It's the law

Raid is effort to aggressively enforce ban on alcohol sales

The Independent

ASHLAND — On Jan. 22, Greenup County voters — or at least those who took time to cast ballots in the special referendum — rejected a proposal that would have allowed the legal sale of alcohol in the county by a rather convincing margin of 4,872-3,830.

In raiding American Legion Post 43 in Greenup County and charging it with two counts of selling alcohol in a dry territory and two counts of promoting gambling in the second degree, the Public Protection Cabinet’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and the Department of Charitable Gaming took a giant step toward enforcing the total ban on alcohol sales that county voters clearly said they wanted on that Tuesday in January.

In executing a search warrant issued after a two-month investigation that stemmed from complaints alleging illegal activities at Post 43, the two state agencies charged with enforcing laws about alcohol sales and charitable gaming reported they discovered large quantities of alcoholic beverages, cash and gambling paraphernalia such as pull tabs. Undercover surveillance also revealed  alcohol was served and sold, and gambling was allowed on the property.

“I am pleased with the combined efforts of investigators and officers of the ABC’s Division of Enforcement and the Department of Charitable Gaming,” said ABC Enforcement Director Mike Razor said. “This type of investigation is time consuming and takes a tremendous amount of coordination.”

We will leave it up to the courts to decide whether the Legion post is guilty of the charges, but rumors of private organizations openly allowing the sale of alcohol in Greenup County have been widespread since long before the January vote on liquor sales.

That’s nothing that is either new or unusual in dry territories throughout Kentucky. In fact, the late Harry M. Caudill, author of “Night Comes of the Cumberland” and noted historian who died in 1990, said he thought the greatest damage bans on the sale of alcohol did for “dry” cities and counties was not restricting economic developing, but teaching a disrespect for the law. 

In communities throughout Kentucky — and there were far more “dry” territories in the state when Caudill lived than there are today — the sale of alcohol is prohibited by law and “just about everyone over the age of 10 knows where alcohol can be purchased with no questions asked,” Caudill said.

That disregard for the law extended far beyond just alcohol laws, Caudill insisted, and encouraged such things as voting buying, fraud, prostitution and other illegal practices. 

When elected officials, law enforcement officers and good citizens look the other way while a few flaunt the laws banning the sale of alcohol, they are teaching young people and others that laws don’t matter, that they can be ignored whenever it is convenient with little chance of being charged.

As regular readers know, The Independent’s editorial board recommended Greenup County voters approve the legal sale of alcohol, and we continue to believe the positives that come from the controlled, legal sales of alcohol far outweigh the negatives. But the majority of voters in January disagreed with us. That’s their choice, but now that it has been made, we think it is important to aggressively enforce the ban county residents say they want. Failure to do so makes the law a joke.

In announcing the raid, Razor had praise for the American Legion. “The American Legion is a wonderful organization, and I support it fully,” he said. “However, they must follow the laws like everyone. It is not fair to those who follow the steps to obtain the proper license to

legally sell alcohol or conduct charitable gaming.”

Exactly so. Any law is only as effective as its enforcement.