House advances bill to auction confiscated alcohol, regulate vintage distilled spirits sales

February 8, 2024 | 12:08 am

Updated February 7, 2024 | 8:12 pm

Graphic by Owensboro Times

Allowing the state to auction off confiscated alcohol is one of several provisions laid out in House Bill 439.

The bill received unanimous approval from the House Licensing, Occupations, and Administrative Regulations Committee on Wednesday. Committee chair and bill sponsor Rep. Matthew Koch, R-Paris, said HB 439 would also establish regulations for sales of vintage distilled spirits in the Commonwealth.

He said the bill is a cleanup of previous legislation that created unintended consequences. The regulations are needed due to vintage spirit retailers buying thousands of bottles from sellers without any oversight, he said.

“We’re not saying they can’t sell it. We are saying how much they can sell,” Koch said. “We are preventing the seller from being able to turn this into an entire livelihood because that’s not what was intended at all from this.”

Under HB 439, vintage distilled spirit licensee holders would not be able to purchase more than 24 packages from any single seller in a 12-month period.

“First thing we did was we created a vintage spirit license, which the retailer can get for $300,” Koch said. “That’ll allow the ABC, who’s a regulatory agency, to identify who is actually doing this so they can now police the work.”

Sellers who violate the new vintage distilled spirit regulations proposed in the bill could face a Class A misdemeanor on first offense and a Class D felony on second or subsequent offense.

Another provision of HB 439 would allow the state to auction off unopened, confiscated alcohol contained in its original packaging. Koch said current state law mandates all confiscated alcohol be destroyed.

The proceeds from confiscated alcohol auctions would go to the alcohol wellness and responsibility education fund, which supports programs focused on prevention of underage drinking and binge drinking for high school and college students.

Rep. Kim Banta, R-Fort Mitchell, asked if HB 439 would prevent retailers from purchasing additional limited-release bourbon bottles from sellers other than the wholesaler. Koch said no.

Rep. Ruth Ann Palumbo, D-Lexington, said she likes the auction provision.

“I thank you for bringing a bill where the bourbon will be auctioned instead of destroyed,” she said.

Koch said he thinks “that’s something we can all get behind.”

HB 439 now heads to the full House for consideration.

Information from the Kentucky Legislative Research Commission.

February 8, 2024 | 12:08 am

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