ASHLAND The liquor landscape has always been convoluted in Boyd County.

Up until the 1980s, Boyd County was entirely dry, that is until the “Ashland Law” was put into effect, according to Ashland City Attorney Jim Moore.

The law created special liquor districts for economically distressed areas in former Class 2 cities bordering states that sell alcohol. While the law never said “Ashland,” Moore said at the end of the day the only city that applied to that legalese was the city of Ashland.

Those special districts were in effect until recently, when the state legislature repealed the Ashland law, with the caveat that a 4% licensing fee could still remain in effect, which helps fund enforcement.

Within Boyd County, there are four sets of liquor laws in effect.

The state has its set of laws and regulations — in all 120 counties and umpteen towns and cities, every bar, restaurant, package store, distributor, gas station and supermarket has to abide by those.

Then there’s Boyd County’s law — newly minted county attorney Curtis Dotson said those laws only apply to the county.

When the county went wet in the 2020 election, that wet vote only applied to the county itself — at the time, Ashlanders within the special liquor districts voted to retain their licensing and rules.

Once the legislature eliminated Ashland, the city essentially became wet like the rest of the county, Moore said. However, the regulations set up in the city and county ordinances don’t have any overlap.

That means the elimination of last call in Boyd County has no effect in the city, both Moore and Dotson said. The city would still retain its last call, while establishments in the county who meet both state and county requirements can serve 24/7, 365 — even on Leap Day.

While the de facto end of liquor sales in the state is midnight, Dotson said localities can still set their own hours of sale. That explains why bars in Louisville would stay open until 4 a.m.

The same could be said about the Entertainment District designation the city recently secured — that boundary is set in downtown and all rules and regulations are handled through Ashland’s laws.

The only exception to that is sidewalk-serving — entities wishing to set up a sidewalk booth would still have to apply to the state to get a permit for that.

Catlettsburg has its own set of liquor laws as well, according to city attorney Sonny Martin.

While there are four laws to rule them all, when it comes to liquor stores, there’s a little bit of uniformity — Moore said the state sets a cap based on population for the entire county.

Hypothetically, if there are 21 licenses for liquor stores in Boyd County and 10 of them are taken in Ashland, while eight are in the county and one is in Catlettsburg, that would mean there are only three licenses left, period.

Those three could go anywhere — once the quota is met, that’s it.

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