Friday, January 22, 2016

'Wet' vote in big lake-tourism county continues gradual trend of rural areas forsaking Prohibtion

This week's front page in Russell County, Ky.
When Congress and the states repealed Prohibition in 1933, they required that each state allow localities to continue banning the sale of alcoholic beverages. A swath of counties, mainly from the Appalachians to Texas, do that, but Prohibition has eroded in recent years.

In Kentucky, where lobbying by the distilling industry apparently created laws that made it impossible to have legal beer without legal liquor, the landscape began to change 25 years ago, when the legislature let cities and localities allow restaurants to serve alcohol. Many chose that local option, and the trend has led to votes to go entirely "wet."

One of the "driest" areas in Kentucky has been the south-central part of the state, where huge Lake Cumberland attracts many tourists who must pack in their alcohol or get it illicitly. Near the eastern end of the lake, the town of Burnside went wet for restaurants several years ago, then extended its city limits downstream about eight miles to let another boat dock serve booze. Then the county seat of Somerset, still a bastion of Baptists, surprisingly went fully wet.

Dark blue counties are dry; light blue have
alcohol in restaurants and/or certain cities.
(This map may not be up to date)
That created an alcohol oasis that threatened the lake trade of Russell County, just to the west, where a big factory closed recently, causing high unemployment. This week, 52 percent of voters there (including a lot of retirees near the lake) voted wet: 3,833 to 3,423. "County and city leaders in Russell County will soon meet on how to prepare for issuing liquor licenses and how to deal with the revenue. The law will take effect in about two months," reports The Times Journal of Russell Springs. "Heavy support from Jamestown and the lake precincts helped to sway the historic vote," reports Larry Smith of 92.7 The Wave. Now, promoters of legal liquor in Adair County, the next county to the west, say they have enough signatures on a petition to force and election.

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