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Last no-booze Alabama county votes dry but still drinks wet

ByJay Reeves

Associated Press

Published: Sunday, Dec. 9 2012 9:37 p.m. MST

Fewer than 50 of the 254 counties in Texas are totally wet, with the remaining banning sales at least in part, according to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Control Board. Kentucky is one of the soberest states, at least by law, with 39 of its 120 counties totally banning alcohol sales, just like Clay County.

Of Alabama's 67 counties, 25 are dry in unincorporated areas yet also have cities where alcohol sales are legal. Blount County recently voted against allowing legalized sales yet it has two country clubs where the booze flows freely — and legally — under a special exemption.

Clay County's neighbor to the east, Randolph County also was totally dry until residents voted last month to legalize alcohol sales. The "wet" vote was bolstered by outsiders who have moved to the county from metro Atlanta because of Lake Wedowee, where development is booming.

The Randolph vote left Clay as Alabama's last totally dry county. Because of a local law passed by the Legislature several years ago, cities in the county aren't allowed to legalize sales on their own. Unlike other counties, the whole county must go wet at once.

It's a place where the legal status of alcohol sales sometimes makes for odd situations.

Some business owners and residents say allowing alcohol sales would help bring in new restaurants and promote new development. Stan Gaither, director of the Ashland Housing Authority and a former business owner, envisions restaurants in downtown Lineville or nearby Ashland serving evening meals and wine to out-of-towners who come to hike or ride bikes in Clay County's endless forests and craggy mountains.

Yet the county chamber of commerce hasn't taken an official position on legalization, and executive director Mary Patchunka-Smith said she'd never serve alcohol at a chamber event. The topic is too touchy, she said.

"I'd lose members right and left," said Patchunka-Smith.

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