LEXINGTON (AP) — Despite Kentucky’s legacy as a holdout against alcohol sales since the end of Prohibition, recent records show that counties and cities in Kentucky have increasingly been voting to no longer stay “dry.”
Voters have approved new or expanded alcohol sales in 23 cities or counties, and turned them down in only six cases since January 2014, according to records from the Kentucky Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
Officials explain the trend by pointing to economic concerns, changes in state law, a greater acceptance of alcohol and residents’ hopes of keeping pace with nearby “wet” cities and counties, the Lexington Herald-Leader reported.
“It’s sort of the domino effect,” said Don Cole, who leads the Kentucky League on Alcohol & Gambling Problems. “All the counties are scratching for money.”
Most recently, voters on June 28 approved legal alcohol sales in long-dry Cumberland and Metcalfe counties, while Williamsburg and Mayfield residents voted for expanded sales.
In Cumberland County, voters had rejected alcohol sales in the county in 2000 by a margin of more than 2 to 1, Cumberland County Clerk Kim King said. Last week, the county approved going “wet” by a vote of 1,441 to 1,069.
“We did it for economic reasons, for sure. Our town’s drying up, basically,” said Doug Williams, a nurse practitioner who helped campaign for legal alcohol sales in the county.
Cole, an ordained Baptist minister, espouses total abstinence but said alcohol is not viewed as evil in the way it was in earlier generations — even by some church members — because of the influence of popular culture and other factors.
“(Church members) just don’t see it as a battle worth fighting,” Cole said. “They’ve got too many other things that they see as more important than this, and some are social drinkers.”