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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: Booze now the toast of the town

A year ago, if you walked into a convenience store in Horse Shoe, Tuxedo or Edneyville, you couldn't buy a six-pack of beer or a bottle of wine.

Tourists and newcomers have spent hours circumnavigating the Ingles store in Etowah looking for the beer and wine aisle.
A foursome on a mountain vacation for a few rounds of golf has discovered time and again that they could not order a round of beers if their 19th hole was a restaurant out in the county.
It's amazing to think about, for a county that had been dry until last May 8, how far we've come and how fast. Not everyone, of course, will say that it is a good thing that county voters said yes yes yes to a series of beer, wine and liquor questions that cluttered the ballot during last spring's primary election.
The change in the law stamped the people's imprimatur on a new day in culturally conservative Henderson County, which apparently is not as culturally conservative as it was 20 or 30 years ago.
Charlie Byrd, the former city schools superintendent and current city ABC board chairman, has been recalling recently the campaign that resulted in the city's first ABC store back in 1955. Business leaders organized the campaign for economic development reasons. Tourists wanted a beer, a glass of wine or a cocktail with their dinner at the Skyland Hotel. People moving to Hendersonville from bigger cities in the north thought it was backwards that they couldn't buy a fifth of vodka anywhere in the whole county.
Today, it's safe to say, we're in the midst of the biggest alcoholic beverage boom in the county's history.
All the buzz is about the Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., which is racing headlong to finish its Mills River plant because demand for its product is surging. That's just one of three major breweries opening or already open here. The new wineries, Saint Paul Mountain Vineyards and Burntshirt Vineyards, have gotten off to a strong start.
Long looked on suspiciously, the devil brew now is viewed as a part of a new job-creating economy-boosting climate in Henderson County. That's not at all a bad thing, the past admonitions from the pulpit notwithstanding.
Sierra Nevada has already shown that it's going to be a terrific corporate partner in the community. The news that the company is a sponsor of Hendersonville's new Rhythm and Brews concert series highlights the cultural shift on beer in a public way. For the first time, people can buy beer and wine at a downtown music event.
Some changes are subtle and gradual. The change that has elevated beer and wine from illegal purchase out in the county to star of the economic development show has been stunningly fast. We're happy to toast it.