Randolph County will go wet and cease to be one of the remaining two completely dry counties in Alabama. Or it will vote dry and hold to the prohibitionist tradition that gave birth to the complex system of legislation and loopholes that define liquor laws in this state.
When national prohibition ended in the 1930s, Alabama politicians, hoping to make everyone happy, voted the state wet but allowed counties the “local option” of remaining dry if that was what residents wanted. Thus, anti-liquor forces, mostly evangelical Protestants, rallied their followers and kept most of the state’s rural counties dry.
Over time, attitudes changed and slowly, one by one, counties voted wet. The reason usually given was based in economics — local government needed the money, and since it didn’t want to raise sales taxes and was unable to raise property taxes, liquor taxes were the answer. Also important, but not advertised, was the fact that a lot of Alabamians wanted to drink but did not want to drive to a neighboring county to buy it.
The economic argument was so compelling that dry advocates sought legislative help to preserve prohibition in their counties. The result was one of those “only in Alabama” solutions in which money was given to dry counties “in lieu of” the tax money they would have collected if they went wet — in other words, the state subsidized prohibition.
However, as it became evident that alcohol sales had economic benefits beyond taxes, more loopholes were requested and the Legislature responded. Cities of a certain size in dry counties were eventually allowed to sell liquor and development zones (usually including golf courses) were given the same permission. So it went until finally there were only two completely dry counties.
Soon there may be only one.
The same arguments are being argued again in Randolph County. One side touts the economic benefits, the other side claims the figures are bogus, the first side claims the benefits are real, and so it goes.
In the past, the economic side has usually prevailed; in these hard times, it might win again. However, the determining factor will likely be whether the old, historic Protestant prohibitionist sentiment is as strong as it used to be.
Either way, history will be made.