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Five O'clock Somewhere: Across the country, voters wrestle with the alcohol question 

Last week, we wrote about a proposed amendment in Arkansas that would have swept away prohibitions on the sale of alcohol in half the state's 75 counties. That means that some Arkansans will drive as far as 60 miles to get their alcohol from special county-line liquor stores. The battle was accompanied by high drama, with Bible-thumping sermons on the evils of drink.

Sadly, the prigs prevailed, deep-sixing the statewide amendment. But there were some glimmers of light: Saline and Columbia counties approved local measures allowing sales of alcohol, tipping the statewide balance a bit, perhaps strengthening any future bid to rid the state of these last holdouts from the dark days of Prohibition.

Across the country, voters in several localities wrestled with the alcohol question. An election in Mansfield, La., saw a measure allowing the sale of alcohol in restaurants sail on to victory. Yadkin County, North Carolina, went wet. Various elections in South Carolina, from Spartanburg and Greenwood counties to the municipalities of Sumter and Lake City, gave a green light to sales of alcohol in restaurants and stores. Voters in the town of Canyon, located in the panhandle of Texas, approved measures allowing the sale of alcohol in stores and licensed restaurants. In Frisco, Texas, the electorate gave a thumbs-up to more, late-night liquor sales. More impressively, the very last dry town in Connecticut reversed its ban on alcohol, allowing for restaurants to sell alcoholic liquor, although with many restrictions.

(But you can’t win ’em all: Voters in Monterey, Tenn., didn’t approve a measure that would have made the city of 2,850 wet.)

It’s interesting to note that one of the main forces driving this liberalization of alcohol was money. It was certainly the case in Bridgewater, Conn., where tight budgets threatened the closure of the town’s only school. The chairman of the Yadkin County Board of Commissioners estimated that lifting the ban would generate $90,000 in revenue. It was also a consideration in Frisco, Texas, where it was said some entrepreneurs wouldn’t consider opening a restaurant while alcohol sales ended at 1 a.m.

All of which goes to show that alcohol is more than fun juice: It’s good economic development policy.

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October 21, 2020

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