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Aruba, March 30, 2016 - New law lowers seating requirement for businesses selling alcohol.

A measure passed both Kentucky legislative chambers Tuesday that could give smaller businesses a more competitive advantage against chain restaurants in downtown Ashland.
The House of Representative passed SB11, sending it back to the Senate for concurrence vote, that will lower the minimum seating requirement in businesses selling alcohol by-the-drink from 100 to 50.
City of Ashland Economic Development Director Chris Pullem said this could open opportunities for small bistros, cafes or other businesses and restaurants to set up shop downtown, using cocktails as a way to compete with other, larger food joints.
Pullem, members of the city commission, Ashland Main Street (now Ashland In Motion) and other economic development-related entities have advocated for the change for at least the past four years.
The bill was sponsored by Sen. John Schickel, R-Union, but former Ashland state Rep. Charlie Holbrook teamed up with Pullem and a group from Ashland Main Street in the 1980s to craft a bill to no avail.
The Ashland Board of City Commissioners voted in favor of sending a support letter to Frankfort officials during its last regular meeting to advocate for the lowered minimum seating requirement. Pullem said it made all the difference.
“The commission has been very supportive,” Pullem said. “In fact, it started with a group of folks wanting to change the look and feel downtown, but ended with the commission providing unwaivering support for the reduction through support letters they crafted and I delivered.
“One thing I’ve noticed in all my discussions for the last four years with different representatives and senators from all over the state trying to push this forward was their first question was always, ‘What do your local officials think?’ So the support letter I was able to provide as an answer to that question went a long way.”
The bill is not meant to be a snub to chain restaurants, Pullem said, adding the city appreciates their business. At the same time, he believes it is harder for small businesses to open and maintain a large staff and inventory needed to operate a 100-seat restaurant. He hopes this can alleviate some of that pressure.