Beer Wars Grip Blowing Rock

In the mid-1970's, Blowing Rock was coming into its own as the entertainment capital of the mountains, fueled by renowned venues like P.B. Scott's; and by alcohol.

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Beer Wars Grip Blowing RockIt was also coming to the end of its rope. Scott's was bringing huge national acts almost weekly, and entertainment almost nightly to the once-sleepy town, and with the attention and income came problems, and finally, public protest.

It all began innocently enough back in 1965, when the North Carolina General Assembly authorized a beer sales election for Blowing Rock, an election which saw beer and wine voted in that August.

That allowed sales in restaurants that had a 'Grade A certificate'. It was in April, 1977, that an amendment to that passage began the fight that would ultimately close Scott's, though never rid the town of alcohol.

That amendment stated that "a restaurant is defined as having a kitchen and a seating capacity of 36 persons or more, and must be engaged primarily and substantially in preparing and selling food."

Noticeable by its absence was a grandfather clause for existing establishments, giving anti-beer forces a double-barrel to aim at the bars they were intent on closing.

That same year an attempt to eliminate beer sales in the town was defeated by a two-to-one margin. By 1978 the cries of outrage had brought the owners - who had formed a group called the Blowing Rock Beverage Association - to voluntarily close an hour earlier; at 12:30 a.m.

They were also considering another voluntary measure; a one-cent self-imposed tax on each beer sold to fund the hiring of an additional policeman.

As one member put it; "we want them (the residents of Blowing Rock) to see that we are civic-minded and concerned." But the drumbeats continued.

In May, 1979, some owners were served summonses by state ABC officials and Blowing Rock Police, to answer questions whether their restaurants met the criteria for serving alcohol; i.e. could they attribute 51% of their overall sales to food, not beer and wine.

By April 15 of 1980, a final standoff was reported, as three establishments in the town were ordered by the ABC board to send in their permits.

None did, and all remained open to serve both food and beer, citing an appeal from the owners and the Blowing Rock Town Council. With the outcome cloudy, precedent was set, as alcohol in the county continues to maintain a foothold, but meet stiff resistance at its spread.

As the headline said in the April 17, 1980 edition of The Mountain Times; "Beer Still Flowing In Blowing Rock."

Twenty years later both the drinks and the debate flow ever onward. Editor's Note: Special thanks to The Mountain Times' correspondent Kenneth Ketchie for in depth coverage.

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