We need your support! Please sign the petition to get this question on our local ballot in November:

Should Henderson County be wet?

  • We need 5,000 signatures by the end of July.
  • Signing is not a vote of yes or no – it just means the question will be on the ballot in November’s general election.
  • Only REGISTERED VOTERS who live in Henderson County can sign.
  • This includes people who live in the city of Henderson.
 
With widespread tri-state attention on F&F and the wet/dry issue in Henderson, it is time for Henderson County to fix the problems inherited from the 1940s and 1960s. We can’t rely on state government officials, and now is the chance to take the matter into our own hands as a community and county.
 
With the incoming I-69, Henderson needs to be prepared to clean up their business-unfriendly reputation. Voting for this issue will help achieve that since F&F has attention from all over the tri-state.
 
Why is WET/DRY an issue and what does F&F have to do with it?
  1. In 1940 Henderson county voted wet, but some precincts stayed dry.
  2. The boundary lines and numbers of districts have changed at least 6 times since the 1940 vote.
  3. The boundaries of the original vote are difficult, if not impossible, to determine, because the official records were destroyed in the 1960s when the old courthouse was torn down and remodeled.
  4. 2016 Brad Schneider, newly appointed Judge signs the F&F’s license application, but includes a cover letter explaining that he cannot be sure we are in a wet area, but since official records have been destroyed he cannot prove that we are dry.  ABC grants the license anyway.
  5. After state ABC closes two complaints about F&F’s wet/dry status, a third complaint is filed, and this time it goes all the way to a hearing in Frankfort.  State ABC rules against F&F citing the testimony of a geologist (not a licensed surveyor) and a journalist’s opinion of the maps in question.
  6. F&F files for appeal to continue business as usual until this is settled
  • We need 5,000 signatures by the end of July.
  • Signing is not a vote of yes or no – it just means the question will be on the ballot in November’s general election.
  • Only REGISTERED VOTERS who live in Henderson County can sign.
  • This includes people who live in the city of Henderson.

Below are articles and statements detailing the challenge to our alcohol license. A synopsis of our story is as follows:

Timeline of Farmer and Frenchman 

Oct 2012 Adjacent landowners approached about acquiring road frontage to farm required for subdividing acreage for F&F project. Wilkerson responds adamantly he does not want anything built “in his backyard”. He expresses his long standing goal of owning our farm and offers to purchase it.
Dec 2012 Road frontage acquired from Williams family. Subdivision of farm completed. Address given by Planning / Zoning 12522 Hwy 41 S, Henderson KY 42420
Mar 2013 Barn restoration began.
Dec 2013 Small Farm Winery license application signed and submitted by local ABC Administrator Judge Executive Hugh McCormick.
Apr 2014 Vineyard planted
Dec 2014 Loan from Field and Main Bank / Small Business Association
Apr 2015 Loan from GRADD approved
Oct 2015

New construction begins to comply with ABC requirement to have “facility ready to open” before license can be issued. ABC inspections 2015-2016 with no problems.

Hubert and Katy begin the move from Miami to Henderson to raise their children, and live and work in the community that they love.

Feb 2016 Small Farm Winery license issued by ABC
Mar 2016 F&F presentation to Fiscal Court on the winery project and to explain the NQ2 licensing (Includes beer and wine from other appellations which ABC allows SFW with café to have to attract more agritourism business.)Full support of court that day.
Mar 29, 2016 NQ2 license application signed and submitted by local ABC Admin / County Judge Executive Brad Schneider. With this application Judge Schneider included the following cover letter:
Apr 28, 2016 NQ2 license issued by ABC
June 2016 Opening of Farmer & Frenchman now with investment of near $1 million.
Apr-Nov 2016 Multiple complaints from adjacent land owners, despite noise level being at or below the city noise ordinance. We have our own security (off duty City Police Officers) to insure no excessive noise and end all events by 10:30. Café closes at 9 pm. Closed to public Sunday and Monday
Aug 23, 2016 ABC investigators at County Clerk office and Planning Zoning inquiring about some “irrefutable map” that shows F&F in dry territory. It is same unofficial map we asked Mr Bishop about 6 months ago. From multiple sources we are told the investigation “is political”.
Aug 29, 2016 $1,000 donation from Wilkerson posted to legislator
Sep 27, 2016 ABC notice of violation
Nov 2016 Affadavit of Director of Planning / Zoning stating their Wet / Dry Map was created from 2014 precinct data and could not possibly reflect 1943 precinct boundaries when wet / dry vote occurred. Attorney for Planning / Zoning advised the map must be removed from website.
Nov 2016 Affadavits from Henderson County Clerk, Henderson County Attorney, Fiscal Court Clerk, Former Henderson County Attorney, Henderson County Judge Executive all stating that no records exist showing the Farmer & Frenchman in a dry precinct.  In fact, the only map discovered in the county court clerks office places the farm in the former Tillotson precinct which is now Niagara which is and always has been a wet precinct.
Apr 2017 ABC legal council after reviewing the evidence, recommends full dismissal of this case. ABC head council denies recommendation.
May 2017 For over 4 years, we have pursued this dream with the counsel and approval of local and state officials. We have endured harassment and interfering with running a business and incurred thousands of dollars in lost work time, legal fees, not to mention the mental and emotional toll of this constant threat to our business and home and financial future.
Sep 2017 ABC hearing pending until December 22
Dec 2017 ABC hearing
Apr 9, 2018 ABC makes ruling against F&F.  Attorney, nor the Mussats receive this order.  It was only discovered, because attorney called ABC to check in.

thegleaner.com – 2017/10/17 – Farmer-frenchman-add-bed-and-breakfast-cabins

thegleaner.com – 2017/09/09/Henderson-winerys-alcohol-licenses-being-disputed

thegleaner.com – 2017/12/21 – Farmer-frenchman-liquor-license-hearing-begins-frankfort

thegleaner.com – 2017/12/21/Farmer-frenchman-liquor-license-hearing-begins-frankfort

thegleaner.com – 2018/04/13/Farmer-and-frenchman-winery-co-owner-feeling-optimistic

  • We need 5,000 signatures by the end of July.
  • Signing is not a vote of yes or no – it just means the question will be on the ballot in November’s general election.
  • Only REGISTERED VOTERS who live in Henderson County can sign.
  • This includes people who live in the city of Henderson.

Posted by Brad Schneider, judge executive 4/14/18 to announce and explain the ABC ruling:

By now many of you know that a tribunal of the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control has ruled to revoke Farmer & Frenchman winery’s NQ2 (retail drink) license. The decision came after a third investigation into whether the winery is located in a wet or dry portion of Henderson County. The first two investigations turned up no actionable evidence for ABC to pull that license, but apparently the third one did and the winery was judged to be in an unquestionably dry precinct.

I am disappointed opponents of the winery prompted a third investigation and I disagree with the tribunal’s ruling. But, as both a champion of small business development here and the designated representative of State ABC in the county, I am going to work with my staff and Fiscal Court to help restore Farmer & Frenchman’s NQ2 license within the legal boundaries set by state law. F&F is a vibrant, unique business that has become a destination attraction for folks from throughout our region. The owners, Hubert and Katy Mussat, deserve fair treatment by state regulators and the support of all Henderson Countians who want to see our community grow and prosper.

One of the ways to restore F&F’s ability to hold an NQ2 license is to hold a new wet/dry vote, either in the precinct where the winery is located or as a countywide consideration. According to state law, the most prominent way to force such a vote is for private individuals to create a petition that asks the county to do so. Here is the language in the law that describes that process.

242.020 Petition for election
(1) A petition for an election shall be signed by a number of constitutionally qualified voters of the territory to be affected, equal to 25% of the votes cast in the territory at the last preceding general election.The petition may consist of one (1) or more separate units, and shall be filed with the county clerk in accordance with this section.

Later in that same section the circumstances under which a successful petition can then become something on which folks can vote is also spelled out:

(c) If the election is to be held on any day other than a primary or regular election date, a person or group of persons seeking the local option election shall post bond with the Circuit Court to cover all costs of the election within five (5) days after the signed petition is filed under paragraph (b) of this subsection. The cost of the election shall be established by the county judge/executive to determine the bond amount.

So, whoever petitions the county for a wet-dry vote must pay the cost of holding that vote if it is not held in conjuction with a regular primary or regular general election. If the petitioners agree to hold the vote as part of a primary or general election, they do not have to foot the cost.

Here is a link to the exact KRS passage on petitions for election:

http://www.lrc.ky.gov/statutes/statute.aspx?id=42440

It is now impossible for a vote on Farmer and Frenchman to be put on the May primary ballot. The absentee ballots and overseas military ballots have already been sent out, so the May ballot is set and cannot be changed.

The Mussats or their supporters can create a petition to have a vote in the future, but will have to wait until the November general election if they don’t want to cover the cost themselves. If they are prepared to cover the cost, the vote could happen fairly soon, within a month or so. Costs for a precinct-only vote would be, at a guess, a couple thousand dollars or thereabouts. A countywide vote would cost tens of thousands of dollars.

Also, the Mussats are appealing the recent ruling and could win the appeal, but how long the appeal process could take is uncertain.

It’s important to note that, from what I understand, while they appeal the Mussats can operate as normal at the winery, including the retail sale of drinks.

One final thing: I have asked County Attorney Steve Gold to examine whether the Fiscal Court itself is allowed to request a countywide wet-dry vote with the simple approval of the court. State law is vague on that question and we are attempting to get clarification from both State ABC’s legal counsel and the State Attorney General’s Office. If Fiscal Court is allowed to ask for a countywide wet-dry vote then it will be my intent to ask the Fiscal Court to OK such a measure and place it on the November ballot, not just to address Farmer & Frenchman’s case but also to completely eliminate any confusion about the wet-dry territories in our county. I will keep the public informed as to the answer to the question about Fiscal Court’s ability to call for a vote.

I hope this helps explain in a little clearer detail the options Farmer & Frenchman, as well as the county, have in dealing with this unfortunate turn of events.

Brad Schneider’s response to why he signed the NQ 2 posted to facebook on April 14th:

No. 1) The F&F project had already been given the go-ahead by local and state officials before I was appointed judge and, having been on the job for only a handful of days, I didn’t think it was fair to shut down the winery based on my opinion alone after more than $500,000 had already been invested by its owners based on the green lights they’d already been given. (And denying them the ability to sell drinks retail would definitely have stopped the project, because the revenue from those sales was vital to the establishment’s early cash flow projections. Wineries all over the state have NQ2 licenses for the same reason.)

No. 2) I of course knew that portions of the county had voted wet back in the 1940s, but the county does not have in its current possession a map that shows the exact boundaries of those precincts at the time the vote was taken. Those maps were apparently lost when the new courthouse was built in the 1960s. We have maps from the 1960s forward, maps from the 1930s and earlier, but over those 100+ years the boundaries of the precincts have changed many times. So without a definitive map that I could point to as a reason not to sign the application, without definite evidence that the application was without question incorrect, I didn’t feel it was right to quash this young couple’s dream after they had already done so much work.

No. 3) Just a decade earlier the state had approved small farm winery and retail drink licenses for Ruby Moon Winery, which is just a short distance from F&F as the crow flies and also in a part of the county for which we had no definitive precinct maps from the 1940s. I was told by courthouse staff that the same wet-dry questions were considered by then-Judge Sandy Watkins and he ran into the same problem – no definitive maps. The courthouse was searched up and down and none specific to the 1940s precincts and wet-dry votes were found. He reached out to ABC for an answer to that dilemna, and ABC staff at the time told him that since no relevant maps existed to use the 42420 zip code area as the “wet” territory. Zip codes are not the legal boundary, but I guess that was a convenient default option for ABC at the time. Ruby Moon was approved. Farmer and Frenchman’s application listed a 42420 zip code, so without any other guidelines to go by, I believed that would help satisfy ABC. But I also knew there were plenty of questions about the status of F&F’s location, so I sent along with the application a detailed cover letter acknowledging the uncertainty, explaining my reasoning and encouraging ABC officials to issue the license only if they saw fit and did not have any contravening evidence. Far from trying to screw anyone over, I bent over backwards to recognize that there were questions on both sides of the issue. But, being a new judge, I did not feel I had enough information to deny the application. I relied on the expertise of the ABC which, after all, is the agency that issues liquour licenses, not the counties. After receiving the application and my cover letter, ABC approved F&F’s NQ2 license.

Two complaints from neighbors prompted two investigations by ABC officials. Those probes were closed with no changes to the license. A third complaint months later prompted another investigation that ended in the decision you all have read about. I testified under oath at the hearing for this recent investigation and told them exactly what I have stated in this post. I did not try to twist any facts or bully anyone. Nor did I try to circumvent the law. I made the best decision I could with the evidence I had at the time and all of a few days experience as a judge. I would hope any person in that same situation would always err on the side of the people trying to achieve their dreams and allowing the people who are paid by the state to be expert regulators to decide the questions that are in doubt. My job now is to inform the F&F owners and other members of the public what their options are and give the community the chance to decide this if that is what it wants to do.

  • We need 5,000 signatures by the end of July.
  • Signing is not a vote of yes or no – it just means the question will be on the ballot in November’s general election.
  • Only REGISTERED VOTERS who live in Henderson County can sign.
  • This includes people who live in the city of Henderson.