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State files with ABC for parks

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By Phyllis McLaughlin

State officials are moving forward with a plan to establish alcohol sales at four Kentucky state parks, including General Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton.

Also included in the plan are Lake Barkley State Resort Park in Cadiz, Jenny Wiley State Resort Park in Prestonburg and John James Audubon State Park in Henderson.

The plan originally was announced last summer as part of a strategy to reduce costs generate revenue for the park system in light of state budget cuts. That strategy also was to include turning food services at selected parks over to private vendors.

Gil Lawson, communications director for the state Tourism, Arts and Heritage Cabinet, which includes the Department of Parks, said Tuesday there was not enough interest from private vendors to proceed with that part of the plan.

But, he said officials have applied for liquor licenses with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Legal advertisements announcing the plan are being published in newspapers in towns where the parks are located. No specific date will be set to start selling alcohol until the ABC issues its approval, and he does not know how long that may take.

He emphasized that all four of the parks targeted for alcohol sales are located in “wet” districts where alcohol sales are allowed.

“We’re only doing this in parks where voters have already voted to allow alcohol sales,” he said. He added that alcohol would be sold by-the-drink and only in park restaurants, conference centers and golf courses. “There will be no bars or cocktail lounges. It will be in a restaurant setting only … We still see ourselves as family friendly.”

In addition to revenue from drink sales themselves, Lawson said officials expect the measure to increase food sales, fill rooms and to help to attract more weddings, banquets and corporate meetings to the three conference centers.

Lawson said the parks department is doing everything it can to reduce costs to help balance the budget and keep the parks open. During the past winter, resort lodges were closed Sunday through Tuesday, with only cottage rentals available those days.

The department also is working to reduce utility costs, has cut back on travel and has limited hiring.

“We have not dropped any major programs in the parks,” he said. “We are keeping them open as much as possible, and are providing the same services we have in the past.”

If alcohol sales are established, Lawson said all servers will be required to complete the Standardized Training for Alcohol Retailers, or STAR, program. The program teaches servers how to be sure customers are of legal age, how to spot fake IDs and how to handle customers who may have had too much to drink.

“This helps us make sure folks are responsible when they purchase alcoholic beverages at the parks,” Lawson said.