The Slow Death of Prohibition
In neighbouring towns, such as Corbin, a vote to allow sales in restaurants was the first step towards going fully wet, and new businesses are planning to open there.
Church groups went to great lengths to warn about the dangers of alcohol
But dry campaigners argue that the whole area is in need of jobs and investment and more freely available booze is not the answer.
“If it takes a town of drunks and people that drink to be prosperous, we are going in the wrong direction,” said Williamsburg schoolteacher Matthew Ratliffe.
“We want to be prosperous, certainly, but we don’t think alcohol is the way to do that.”
Like many of his fellow dry campaigners, Ratliffe has experience of alcoholism in his family but he also believes the Church has a duty to protect the morals of the local community.
“I do have a moral obligation as a follower of Jesus Christ to be against alcohol,” said the 32-year-old former police officer.
“However, from the experiences I have had in my life I know the downfalls of alcohol and I have seen them personally, through the broken homes and deaths I have seen.”
One thing both sides can agree on is that the real problem facing south-east Kentucky is not drinking but drugs.
Methamphetamine and prescription pills like Oxycontin, dubbed “hillbilly heroin”, have taken over from bootlegging and the distillation of moonshine as the main source of profit for local criminals.
Bootleggers once “ran wild” in the area, according to Paul Croley, but with the growing availability of legal alcohol in wet towns, any profit to made from smuggling booze across county lines has largely evaporated.