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Kentucky’s Alcohol Laws

by Landmark Recovery

December 12, 2020
signs of drug use in teens

Updated 9/23/22
Kentucky, the home of bourbon and moonshine, has laws that govern all aspects of alcohol, from purchase to possession and beyond. However, the rules, especially those around wet, dry, and moist counties, are not always straightforward. If you’re a Kentucky resident, it’s worth your while to learn about your state’s liquor laws and stay on the right side of them.

Alcohol and Age in Kentucky

As is the case in every state in the country, only those 21 and older are legally permitted to purchase alcohol. Non-adults under 18 caught trying to buy alcohol may be subject to juvenile offender punishments. At the same time, adults between 18 and 20 could face fines and/or jail time. Underage purchase of alcohol with a falsified ID is a criminal offense. Getting caught doing so often results in a suspended driver’s license.

However, the laws on possession and consumption for those under 21 are not quite as strict. Both adults and non-adults under 21 may drink alcohol if they have a parent or legal guardian’s permission.

In venues such as restaurants, bars, and clubs where alcohol is sold to be consumed on-premise, servers and bartenders must be of legal age. Adults 18 and older can handle and sell beer—not wine or spirits—for off-location consumption, as is the case for many convenience stores. However, they must also be supervised by an adult.

Alcohol Violations in Kentucky

It is illegal to drink or carry an open container in public or in a vehicle in Kentucky. As with the rest of the country, the legal limit when driving is a BAC of 0.08. For those under 21, the limit is a BAC of 0.02. However, you can still be convicted of a DUI if you’re showing visible signs of intoxication, even if you don’t meet the legal BAC limit.

Dry Counties in Kentucky

It may come as a shock, but dry counties, a remnant of the prohibition era, still exist, even in 2022. Kentucky is home to both dry (meaning the sale of alcohol is prohibited) and wet (permitting full retail sales of alcohol) counties. The state also features a handful of ‘technically’ dry counties that encompass wet cities and ‘moist’ counties, which only permit the sale of alcohol in restaurants. Overall, Kentucky’s alcohol laws are quite patchy and irregular and are governed by what the Kentucky Supreme Court called “a maze of obscure statutory language.”

As of July 2022, there were 10 dry counties in Kentucky.

  • Allen
  • Bath
  • Casey
  • Crittenden
  • Clinton
  • Elliott
  • Hancock
  • Jackson
  • Martin
  • Owen

Dry counties are more prevalent in Southern states, but these laws haven’t stopped the movement of alcohol at all. Necessity is the mother of invention, which means that modern iterations of bootlegging are still alive and well in some regions of the south, including

Kentucky. Others simply go where the booze is, which ultimately means they are more prone to drinking and driving. Studies show that dry counties actually have higher DUI-related vehicle collisions than their wet or moist counterparts.

Even if you are staying within the state’s legal restrictions, alcohol can still become dangerous and problematic on a personal level. If you live in Kentucky and are struggling with alcohol abuse or addiction, contact Landmark Recovery today. We’re here to help, and we genuinely care.

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