A few weeks ago I mentioned that a vote was taking place in my area as to whether ‘liquor by the drink’ would be allowed and become legal in the ‘downtown’ of my county. Here’s what I said earlier this month:
“The choice to sell alcoholic beverages or not is still a controversial one in many rural communities, including my own. Despite loss of almost all manufacturing industries and struggling with a high school dropout rate of more than 40%, some people in Mitchell County, North Carolina like things just the way they are. They’re worried that the tourists who might enjoy a glass of wine – at the hotels and restaurants that might be built if alcohol was legal – might ruin everything for us.
Ninety-eight of North Carolina’s 100 counties allow alcohol, including those that surround Mitchell County, meaning that residents who want to purchase alcohol can literally drive 100 feet into the next county, buy it, and then drive back home. Mitchell County is one of just two dry counties still holding the brown bag.
The issue comes up every year or two, and from the full page ad sponsored by just about every church in town that appeared in this week’s newspaper, it’s going to be another tough vote. The battle between those who vote ‘yes’ and those who vote ‘no,’ is as much about trying to keep tourists away as it is about alcoholism, domestic abuse, and the Bible.”
Well – guess what? After a total of 824 votes were cast, all four choices for alcohol passed by 55% to 45% proportion – malt beverage, unfortified wine, mixed beverage and creation of an ABC Store. After living here twenty years, I have to say I was shocked that it was approved. (Because I live out in the county and not within the city limits, I was not able to vote.)
And just like that, change has come to Spruce Pine, North Carolina.
So now, the town will need to appoint an ABC Board that will oversee how monies from alcohol sales will be distributed in the county. And of course, decide where the ABC store will be located.
It’s amazing how the changes begin so quickly.
Within days of the vote, the local Chamber established a blog and started tweeting on Twitter about tourism. Six days later, the County Commissioners announced the hiring of a new Economic Development Director for the County. Land parcels where the ABC store could be located are being bought and sold as people place their bets, and restaurant owners are applying for permits to serve alcohol.
Shocked by the vote results, an adjacent county is apparently terrified by an expected loss of sales tax and county monies. Longtime, long distance customers will probably change their buying habits, and stay in their own home county to buy liquor, instead of traveling across the county border. The adjacent county newspaper described last week how their ABC Board is suddenly planning a second ABC store location close to the highway turnoff to our county, in an effort to siphon off tourist sales that might be made at a yet-to-be-built ABC Store.
“Federal Revenuers” may not be around in great number anymore, but moonshiners with their back roads stills will likely still make white lightning, although odds are, they aren’t all that happy about the vote. With legalization of liquor, there’s less opportunity for underground sales of white lightning – which has a 100 year tradition here in the mountains of western NC and eastern TN (the Southern Appalachians).
‘White Lightning’ is probably the only aspect of heritage and cultural tourism that we won’t be suddenly writing grants for this year, although perhaps DIY kits might find a market in our local craft venues, and moonshine memorabilia might be enshrined in a new museum.
It’s certainly amazing how quickly things can change, just in a couple weeks.
Same old, same old. I think NOT!
To be continued as we progress….