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Street Talk

Legalizing Beer Has Helped The City

Ten years ago, on December 11, there was county wide special election for a single issue. Should beer (technically alcohol products under five percent by volume) be a legal product for sale? The issue passed by a two to one vote margin county wide. In the City of Water Valley’s voting boxes, it passed by a three to one margin. The voter turnout was larger than for the governor election the month before.

Yalobusha County was not a totally dry county a decade ago, we were “wet” for alcohol over five percent by volume, meaning legal for wine and liquor and “dry” therefore illegal to even possess beer. There was only one other county in Mississippi’s 82 counties that had the same situation. It seemed weird. There were two counties that were reverse of that, also.  

And back then there were 31 totally dry counties (meaning no wet towns either) in the state. Now there are only eight counties that are totally dry.

Yalobusha was not the first county to have an alcohol sales related election, but a decade ago we were the first in a long time to try. Since then many have followed suit, a strong majority have passed. I feel it is because Mississippians want progress. In that way, we have been leaders.

In the Yalobusha beer election, just a decade ago, there was a strong and vocal opposition to making beer a legal product. Many of the arguments were religious based. Quite a few predicted the ruination of this town. It seemed to me it was an opposition based on loss of control and fear. I’d quote FDR’s line about fear, but I think you already know it.

The proponents argued that the election was about individual freedom, increased revenue, a stronger economy, new investment, having a competitive edge and local control. Of those categories that are measurable, the numbers are markedly better. 

Is it all because of beer? No, not at all. That there is beer now is not a true positive, because it is simply normal for the vast majority of Americans. But not having beer was truly a big negative. The often-heard sentiment for so many who moved away from the Valley was, “you’d get a ticket for beer.”

What people of good judgment are allowed to do and how it affects others is what makes a civil society.

It is also what Main Street is about.  That and economic opportunity and freedom for everyone.

Having the option for a cold beer with fajitas, or shrimp, or pizza seems not too much to ask. It seems a natural fit on any Main Street in America.

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