Bar Beat: Boozin’ it up

If you haven’t been to the Woodfin ABC store yet, you should remedy that soon.

All-cohol: The smiling face of Captain Morgan greets customers at a packed display at Woodfin’s new liquor store. Photo by Jonathan Welch

Inside is a veritable Taj Mahal of liquor stores: It looks good, the staff is extremely helpful and the selection is staggering.

Displays are everywhere—from a faux fireplace stacked with bourbon to a Canadian Mist prop plane flying over the whiskey selection. There’s a wall of rum and a massive selection of bourbons and Scotches. Irish whiskeys, usually an afterthought in many ABC stores, get their due here.

It’s got rarities like Licor 43 and Redbreast Irish whiskey that are extremely hard to find on ABC-store shelves in this state.

What’s all the more impressive is how recent all this is. Liquor was, as recently as 2005, a contentious issue in the town of Woodfin, which then only allowed the sale of beer and wine. Some town residents protested that allowing an ABC store and liquor by the drink would ruin Woodfin’s moral fiber and cause rampant problems, while many business owners supported the move as a way to encourage economic development.

In the end, Woodfin’s voters approved both liquor by the drink and the shiny new ABC store. Their ABC board apparently realized that, bordering Asheville, they’d have to create an impressive store to compete.

They’re not the only ones. The mountains have long been one of the driest areas of the state: Three of the remaining four dry counties in North Carolina are in WNC, and in Boone they still make margaritas with wine. But in Buncombe County, the times are changing.

Weaverville’s relatively new ABC board (the town’s voters approved ABC stores a year after Woodfin) is looking to locate a store in its community, probably in the large Northridge Commons shopping center.

The Asheville ABC board itself is out to expand, aiming for new stores in Arden, Reynolds and Leicester, as well as replacing the small, nuts-and-bolts ABC store on Tunnel Road with a more modern facility.

For those of us who are on the drinking end, this can’t help but be good news. More options allows for discerning drinkers to find something more to their taste and try out some new ones too. After years of Spartan ABC stores with bare-bones selections, it’s refreshing to see ABC boards concerned about pleasing the customer and providing as many options as possible.

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