The familiar battle over whether to allow alcohol sales in communities around the state has raged across North Carolina for decades.
The latest instance will occur on Tuesday, when voters in McAdenville Christmastown USA will decide whether to allow the sale of beer, wine and mixed drinks.
In the days leading up to the election, a familiar scenario has played out: opponents declaring the evils of alcohol and proponents proclaiming the good things it can bring.
Some people are fearful of change and dont want to see economic development, said Greg Richardson, 41, who circulated a petition calling for the McAdenville election. We want growth. Economic development is good.
Town council member Blair Rector, 40, likes his hometown the way it is and feels like there are other ways to grow other than doing this (alcohol sales.)
Some say the alcohol issue has split the town, pitting newcomers against longtime residents; others dont see it that way.
Around the Charlotte region, the map is mostly wet with a sprinkling of dry patches. Lincoln County is wet. Iredell County is wet for beer and wine; only Statesville and Mooresville have ABC boards.
Cabarrus County is dry, but the six towns have legal alcohol sales. Union County is also dry although nine towns have some form of alcohol sales. Five Union towns remain dry: Fairview, Unionville, Lake Park, Mineral Springs and Hemby Bridge.
Gaston County is dry, but Gastonia and eight small towns have some form of alcohol sales. McAdenville, Ranlo and Spencer Mountain are still dry.
Its always been debated and always been controversial, said Michael Herring, administrator of the N.C. Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission. And it remains divisive in communities.
East to west
Looking back over the history of alcohol sales in North Carolina, Herring said that after the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, beer and unfortified wine sales were legal statewide seven days a week, 24 hours a day.
Liquor was prohibited because of the strong influence of bootleggers and preachers, he said.
Then in 1935, on the last day of the legislative session, 18 Eastern North Carolina counties were approved to sell liquor in ABC stores. The first one opened on July 2, 1935, in Wilson.
In 1937, local option for liquor stores was approved for all counties. Of the 18 counties that voted, eight approved ABC stores, bringing the total number to 26 counties in the state with ABC stores. Mecklenburg County voted down liquor stores. In fact, there were no ABC stores west of Durham.
Herring said that during these times the Anti-Saloon League became known as the United Dry Forces and fought the legal sale of alcohol at every opportunity. The dry influence along with the bootleg influence were united and effective in opposing all alcohol legislation, he said.
In 1940, Johnson County voted out ABC stores and Franklin County followed in 1941.
The picture changed again in 1943 when the legislature prohibited the sales of beer and wine between 11:30 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. the following day.
The United Dry Forces became known as the Allied Church League in 1947 the same year Mecklenburg County voted in ABC liquor stores.
Also in 1947, the legislature determined local option worked so well for liquor it was mandated for beer and wine, Herring said.
Between 1947 and 1956, 48 counties voted to discontinue beer and wine sales. In 1957, some 50 counties had legal beer and wine sales; 36 counties were completely dry for beer and wine; and 14 counties had legal beer and wine sales in at least one town.
In 1978, the state authorized liquor by the drink through local option and Mecklenburg County was the first to approve it.
From east to west, the state has gone wet. Currently, the Western North Carolina county of Graham on the Tennessee border is the only county totally dry for legal alcohol sales.
There are 167 local ABC boards of which 50 are countywide mainly in the east and municipal/city boards in 49 mainly western counties.
After the ABC vote in McAdenville, Herring predicted the next referendum likely will be in another small town somewhere in the western part of the state experiencing population growth and change.
Very small rumblings
The Union County town of Mineral Springs, population 2,700, has never had a referendum on alcohol sales. But Mayor Rick Becker can see that possibility in the next few years.
A New Jersey native, hes the towns first and only mayor, elected 13 years ago following incorporation. According to Becker, pro-incorporation forces didnt want to be annexed by Monroe or Waxhaw. Opposition cropped up and he remembers signs that read: Vote no. Next thing theyll want to bring in is liquor.
While ABC sales are not on our radar, Becker said, weve heard some very small rumblings about it.
Harris Teeter owns 25 acres downtown, but with no sewer service available to the site the property hasnt been developed, Becker said.
A countywide sewer line is in the planning stage and access to that project will eventually be available. If a new grocery goes in and the sale of beer and wine there is an issue, it could put pressure on the town council to call for an ABC election, Becker feels.
Im concerned council might find itself in a position to make a decision, he said. We may have to think about it.
And if a referendum ever came to a vote, I dont know what Id do, he said.
Among those watching what happens in McAdenville on Tuesday will be Stanley Mayor Frank Guida. Voters in that Gaston County town approved alcohol sales in November 2011.
Guida remembers it as a hotly contested issue voices raised loudly on both sides. But at this point things apparently have settled down.
I personally havent heard a lot of conversation about it or any complaints, Guida said. Or nobody bragging about it, either.