Kentucky – a state probably best known for its bourbon – has some of the most convoluted state alcohol laws in the country. When you live in or visit the state you need to know when and where you can get a drink.
Kentucky alcohol retailers can sell alcohol between 6 a.m. and midnight Monday through Saturday. Sunday alcohol sale hours are determined by each locality and may be prohibited or be the same as Monday through Saturday. Licensees can get extended hours licensees. Growlers, delivery, and to-go alcohol are legal. Ten counties in the state are dry.
There is much more to the laws surrounding alcohol in Kentucky. Let’s go over the specifics of alcohol sales, growlers, delivery, and driving in Kentucky.
Is Kentucky a dry state?
A dry state in the U.S. is one that heavily restricts or outright prohibits the sale of alcohol. Since the states are no longer under a national prohibition, they are all wet.
Kentucky is not a dry state. The Kentucky government does not prohibit the sale of alcohol.
Although Kentucky is not dry, it does allow localities the power to decide their status. This means there are several dry counties.
Does Kentucky have any dry counties?
Dry counties are more common in southern states such as Kentucky. That said, the number of dry counties has gone down over time.
Of the 120 counties in Kentucky, 10 are dry:
The above dry counties prohibit the sale of alcohol entirely.
In addition to these dry counties, there are a number of “moist” counties. Moist is a fairly vague term (not to mention gross sounding to many) but it can cover situations where a city in a dry county is wet.
When can you buy beer in Kentucky?
Most states will have some restrictions on the hours that alcohol may be sold. While this does not make the state dry, it can feel quite restrictive. Kentucky allows localities to set these hours with a few stipulations.
You can buy beer, wine, and alcohol in Kentucky between 6 a.m. and midnight Monday to Saturday throughout the state. Sunday sales can be prohibited by localities such as cities without losing their wet status.
The time frame of 6 a.m. until midnight is the minimum sale hours for a wet locality in Kentucky. If the license is available, alcohol retailers can apply for a license that allows them to keep operating after midnight.
Can you buy beer on Sunday in Kentucky?
The above-mentioned minimum range for alcohol sales is only protected on Monday through Saturday. Localities can set their Sunday sale hours the same as the rest of the week or even more restrictive.
You can buy alcohol on Sunday in most of Kentucky. The hours will depend on the city or county in question.
Louisville, for example, sets the off and on-premise retail hours from 1 p.m. until 11:59 p.m. (without a supplemental license).
Due to only Monday through Saturday having state-protected hours, you will find a wide range of Sunday sale hours throughout the state. Be sure to check the hours of each area you drink in.
Election days are another common time when alcohol sales are prohibited. Kentucky does not require bars and liquor stores to close during polling times, but localities can vote to make that a requirement.
When do bars close in Kentucky?
Bar closing time depends greatly on whether the bar in question has a supplemental alcohol license.
Without a supplemental license, bars in Kentucky must close as early as midnight. This closing time can be even earlier on Sunday in some areas. With a supplemental license, bars don’t have to close until as late as 4 a.m.
Of course, bars won’t always take full advantage of the extended closing time. Expect bars to close anywhere from midnight to 4 a.m., with many closing around 2 or 2:30 a.m.
Where can you buy beer in Kentucky?
Aside from hour restrictions, some states place restrictions on where you can buy certain types of alcohol.
The places you can buy beer in Kentucky include:
- Bars and restaurants
- Gas stations
- Grocery stores
- Package and liquor stores
- Breweries and taprooms
However, each of these locations has rules and regulations that they must follow. Below I will go over each in detail. The below Sunday hours are based on Louisville’s regulations as an example. Other cities and counties will have different Sunday alcohol sale hours.
Bars and restaurants
Kentucky bars and restaurants can sell beer, wine, and liquor from 6 a.m. until midnight (or 4 a.m. if they have a supplemental license) Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, they may sell alcohol between 1 p.m. and midnight. Some licenses allow restaurants to sell alcohol starting at 10 a.m., while others allow both retailers to remain open until 4 a.m.
Regarding the supplemental licenses, most restaurants won’t get the extended hours license that allows them to stay open late, but bars are more likely to apply for (and receive) the license.
Both locations can sell alcohol for on-premise consumption. They can also sell alcoholic beverages with to-go orders as long as the order includes food.
Gas stations in Kentucky can only sell beer.
They can do so between 6 a.m. and midnight on Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, they can sell beer between 1 p.m. and midnight.
All alcohol sales must be for off-premise consumption. Beer must be in its original packaging.
Kentucky grocery stores can sell beer, wine, and liquor between 6 a.m. and midnight on Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, they can sell alcohol between 1 p.m. and midnight. If the store has an extended hours license, they can sell alcohol until 2 a.m.
Grocery stores can’t sell alcohol for on-premise consumption. Additionally, all alcohol must be in its original packaging. The only exception is growlers. Grocery stores can fill growlers if they have the appropriate equipment. If they sell prefilled growlers, they must be labeled.
The state does place a requirement on grocery stores that sell wine and liquor. The wine and liquor must be in a separate area with a different entrance. This is to discourage minors from entering this area.
Package and liquor stores
Liquor and package stores in Kentucky can sell beer, wine, and liquor from 6 a.m. until midnight (or 2 a.m. with a supplemental license) Monday through Saturday. On Sunday, they can’t sell alcohol until 1 p.m. and must close by midnight.
These retailers can’t sell alcohol for on-premise consumption. However, they can offer free samples if they have a sampling license. Just like other off-premise retailers, liquor stores have to sell alcohol in its original packaging.
The only exception is growlers. Off-premise retailers can refill growlers as long as they are properly sanitized. Any prefilled growlers they sell must be properly labeled.
Breweries and taprooms
Kentucky breweries can sell their own beer and beer purchased from a distributor. They can sell beer between 6 a.m. and midnight on Monday through Saturday. Sunday hours are from 1 p.m. until midnight. Sales can be for on and off-premise consumption.
Breweries can sell and fill growlers for off-premise consumption. When filling growlers, the brewery should ensure the container is sanitized. Any growlers they sell should be labeled with the product information.
Can you get beer delivered in Kentucky?
Alcohol delivery is a beautiful thing. Some states have strict restrictions on it. Luckily, Kentucky is fairly relaxed on the matter. There are a few restrictions, of course.
The alcohol delivery laws in Kentucky include:
- Packages must be signed for by an individual 21 years or older
- The transporter must check for a valid proof of age
- The delivery vehicle must be clearly marked
Kentucky also now allows direct-to-customer shipping. This allows customers to purchase liquor directly from distillers for delivery.
What is the minimum drinking age in Kentucky?
It doesn’t matter where you go in the United States, the drinking age stays the same.
The minimum drinking age is 21 in Kentucky.
Employees of licensed retailers must check for proof of age for everyone attempting to purchase alcohol.
What does change is whether the state allows any of the common exceptions.
Can minors drink beer in Kentucky with their parents?
One of the most common exceptions is when underage individuals can drink with their parents.
Minors and adults younger than 21 years old can drink alcohol if their parent or guardian is present and gives permission.
Kentucky does not allow other exceptions, such as an of-age spouse giving the underage spouse permission.
State alcohol laws
Alcohol laws can get twisted and perplexing after centuries. Kentucky shows this in its many licenses.
Kentucky has over 70 different alcohol licenses that retailers can apply for. Licenses are divided by the type of alcohol to be sold as well as supplemental licenses. Many retailers will hold several licenses.
The licenses cover extended hours, sampling privileges, and the types of alcohol retailers can sell. Further licenses cover specific retailer types and hard to categorize retailers such as golf courses.
Drinking laws in Kentucky
Though Kentucky’s state alcohol laws are rather intricate, things get simpler when it comes to the laws surrounding the consumption of alcohol.
Kentucky’s laws include harsh penalties for those who abuse alcohol. Further laws are meant to limit such incidents and keep the public safe. These laws are comparable to those in other states.
Be sure to check the local laws, as moist and dry localities can have strict laws regarding drinking.
Can you buy growlers and other unsealed beer containers in Kentucky?
One area that Kentucky does not overly regulate is growlers and similar unsealed containers.
You can buy growlers and have them refilled in Kentucky. Growlers do not have to be a specific size, but they must be sanitized prior to refilling. Additionally, prefilled growlers must have labels with the brand name, brewer information, alcohol class, and general warnings.
You can take growlers with specific brewery labeling to any other brewery as long as it’s clean. In addition to breweries, any licensee that sells alcohol for off-premise consumption can fill or sell growlers.
When you have an unsealed container of alcohol in a motor vehicle, you have to be very careful. Kentucky has very specific laws surrounding open containers of alcohol.
In Kentucky, you cannot have an open container of alcohol anywhere in the passenger area of a vehicle. The open container must be in the trunk or another space out of the reach of the driver or any passengers.
There are two exceptions to this law. You can have an open container in the passenger area of a commercial passenger vehicle such as a limo. The other exception is the living area of a motor home.
Alcohol and driving do not mix. Besides the fact that it is dangerous, it is highly illegal.
Kentucky law has legal limits and penalties for drivers under the influence depending on their age.
There are often other violations in a DUI case, but below are the legal limits and penalties for a first-time offender.
Under 21 years old
In Kentucky, the legal limit for drivers under the age of 21 is 0.02% BAC. Penalties for the first conviction can include:
- A fine of at least $100 and up to $500
- 20 hours of community service (instead of a fine)
The limit of 0.02% BAC is to account for errors in the test as well as any naturally produced alcohol.
21 years and older
The legal limit for drivers 21 years old or older is 0.08% BAC in Kentucky. The penalties for the first conviction can include:
- A fine of at least $200 and up to $500
- Jail time of at least 48 hours and up to 30 days
- Or community labor of at least 48 hours and up to 30 days
- License suspension for 6 months