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A measure passed by the Kentucky General Assembly that would allow wineries to potentially sell their products on Sundays awaits the signature of Gov. Steve Beshear.
Shanna Osborne, the general manager of Elk Creek Winery, testified before the State Senate Licensing and Operations Committee in support of Senate Bill 213.
“I was honored to take part in this legislative process and I was moved by (Owen County State Senator) Julian Carroll’s speech regarding the history of Kentucky wineries,” Osborne said in a statement. “Senator Carroll was involved in some of the first legislation after the prohibition to enable small farm wineries a chance. He told us that historically vineyards and winemaking once put Kentucky on the map and he hoped to see this industry thrive again.”
The proposal was later added as an amendment to another piece of legislation which was ultimately approved by the General Assembly.
If Beshear signs the amended measure, Kentucky wineries would be able to petition the local fiscal court to opening tasting rooms after 1 p.m. on Sundays.
Osborne said wineries and other businesses that benefit from tourism should have more of a say in when and how they operate.
“For years, small farm wineries have been subdued by outdated legislation that dates back to prohibition and in a fifth-class city such as Owenton, there were no options to even allow a vote about Sunday sales,” Osborne said. “With this legislation, Frankfort has given the ability for local government to decide the fate of the small farm wineries in their community.”
The bill contains a second chance for Sunday sales.
Under the bill, if the fiscal court rejects a wineries’ request or passes an ordinance to prohibit Sunday sales, a local option election could be petitioned for the voting precinct in which the winery is established.
Osborne said that Sunday sales are vital to bottom line of many small farm wineries.
“There are 71 licensed wineries in Kentucky and more than 32 are unable to open on Sunday due to the outdated legislation.” Osborne said. “In the tourism industry, businesses thrive three days per week - Friday through Sunday - and forcing a tourist attraction to close for one of the three vital days of business is detrimental.”
Osborne said allowing Sunday sales would be a huge benefit for the wineries, customers and other business that benefit from tourism.
“The wine trail is a thriving tourism industry and works hand in hand with the bourbon trail. Kentucky wineries are a family and we thrive from the team success of each other,” Osborne said.
In her statement, Osborne said if the bill is signed and the law takes effect in July, Elk Creek would go before the Owen County Fiscal Court to seek permission open after 1 p.m. on Sundays and offer wine sales.
“We plan to offer a Sunday brunch, tours, and tastings for our guests as well as local residents,” Osborne said. “Elk Creek Vineyards has proven to be a responsible asset to our community bringing in tourists from all over the world, generating an incredible tax revenue, and providing jobs for local residents.”
Osborne said she wanted to let people know the intention of the winery before approaching the fiscal court.
“Elk Creek Vineyards wants to be forthcoming to the public with our intent as we understand that we need local support if we are going to survive,” Osborne said. “We welcome the thoughts, desires, questions, and concerns of the Owen County citizens as we begin discussions about this bill and how it can impact our community. We want to be responsible as we continue to provide a valuable service to Owen County and as the tourism industry grows in this community we will be able to maintain the rural atmosphere that attracts visitors from across the globe.”
Although the winery hasn’t prepared a formal request for the fiscal court to consider, Osborne said she believes the magistrates will ultimately support the change.
“We are hopeful that they will,” Osborne said. “We still have a ways to go but it’s promising.”