Legislation allowing 18-year olds to sell, serve alcohol passes, heads to governor

Currently in Kentucky you have to be 20-years old to sell and serve alcohol

FRANKFORT, Ky. (WTVQ) – If Gov. Andy Beshear signs House Bill 252 into law, Kentucky will join many states where 18-year olds can sell and serve alcohol beverages.

Currently, Kentucky sets the minimum age to sell and serve alcohol at 20, but HB 252 lowers the threshold. The Senate on Monday gave final passage to the bill with a 23-10 vote. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Supporters said the legislation would not only help the beleaguered restaurant industry, but also young people who seek employment.

“So when you go into a restaurant today there are empty tables, and it’s not because of COVID or six feet of distancing requirements,” said Senate Majority Caucus Chair Julie Raque Adams, of Louisville. “It’s because restaurants do not have enough staff. House Bill 252 is an attempt to correct that part of our workforce shortage.”

The legislation is sponsored by Republican Rep. Killian Timoney, of Lexington. However, Adams presented the bill on the Senate floor.

By allowing restaurants to hire 18-year-olds, restaurants gain a larger employment pool and opportunities expand for young job seekers, she said.

“In comparing Kentucky’s laws to surrounding states, all of them allow a person to be employed before the age of 20, and today this leads many of our young Kentuckians to work across the borders. So, the challenges caused by COVID still reverberate throughout the restaurant industry including workforce shortages,” she said.

The bill would also offer “immediate and significant” relief to distribution companies, according to Adams.

Republican Sen. Wil Schroder, of Wilder, voted for the bill and said he is in agreement about young job seekers who look for opportunities in surrounding states.

“We’ve seen when people have the ability to choose – that are under 21 – whether to take a job in the restaurant industry in Ohio or in Kentucky,” he said. “This plays a factor because this plays a factor in their tips. So this will play a factor in workforce retention for some of our restaurants in Northern Kentucky.”

Republican Sen. Brandon Smith, of Hazard, said he would normally vote against this type of legislation. But if it becomes problematic, the law could be changed next year, he said.

“I hate to think I would do something to knock one of these young people out of getting a job that they desperately need only because of something like this,” he said. “It doesn’t create an opportunity for them to drink any more than they have on their own.”

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