Lifting spirits: New attitudes toward alcohol move across region
Haywood County is the latest in steady wave of communities across the mountains to shed its long-standing political and cultural hang-ups over alcohol by allowing a countywide vote this fall on whether to legalize beer and wine sales in the county at large.
Prohibition ended more than 80 years ago, but it was left up to each town or county to decide whether, where and what type of alcohol sales to allow — and only by a majority vote.
The result: a muddy patchwork of alcohol laws that vary from town to town and county to county.
While most towns in the mountains now allow alcohol sales in some form or fashion, the majority of counties in the region are still dry once you get out of town. But that’s been changing rapidly in recent years.
Until 10 years ago, Buncombe was the only county in the mountains with countywide alcohol sales. Now the list includes:
• Clay County, since 2009.
• Jackson and Henderson counties, since 2012
• Transylvania County, since 2014.
• Cherokee County, since 2016.
More counties than still ban it, which includes: Macon, Swain, Graham, Madison, Yancey, Mitchell, Watauga, Ashe and Haywood — at least for now.
The last time Haywood County voters weighed in on countywide alcohol sales was 1952, when the measure failed. Liquor and mixed drinks won’t be on the ballot, only beer and wine.