North Carolina’s last “dry” county allows some booze sales

North Carolina has 100 counties, and until this week, Graham County was the only one that didn’t allow beer and wine sales (other than at a few resorts). But on Tuesday, voters in the county seat of Robbinsville voted to permit selected booze sales in local businesses. It was the first such vote in almost 70 years for the rural Appalachian county of 8,500, reports The Asheville Citizen-Times. Even after “dry” counties and Prohibition petered out, Graham County stuck with teetotaling, thanks to a heavy conservative Baptist presence. But like many mountain counties, that religious influence co-existed with a once-bustling and raucous bootleg trade in homemade hooch. The moonshine tradition waned—and, apparently, so too has support for the liquor ban. Some officials say that Graham—a tiny county that lost 400 jobs in one fell swoop when its single factory closed in 2015—can attract much-needed tourist dollars with its stunning natural landscapes. But tourists tend to consider alcohol a necessary amenity; they want wine with their sunsets. That fact is in full effect two hours away in Asheville, which claims to have more breweries per capita than any other U.S. city (and more than a million visitors annually). Of course, not everyone wants alcohol-enhanced development. Despite the coming change, the issue of alcohol sales tends to be a touchy one that divides newcomers from longtime residents; even the alderman who helped get the measure on the ballot declined to say “whether or not he drinks, let alone his stance on the upcoming vote.” And hard liquor is still a hard no. It was excluded from the vote.