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Wet or dry? Nov. 5 election ballots to decide

With election time taking place next week, Harlan locals prepare for the wet-dry vote to determine if the county should sell packaged alcoholic beverages in stores or keep them exclusive to restaurants. City of Harlan residents will be able to cast their vote on Nov. 5 to decide which is best for their community.

Harlan County Clerk Donna Hoskins said the decision to go “wet” would be economic to the city.

“If it goes ‘wet,’ the grocery stores like Walmart could sell the beverages,” Hoskins said.

Harlan Tourism and local business owners estimated around 75 percent of business in downtown spurs from the growing number of tourists traveling through the area.

April Collins, owner and operator of Sassy Trash in downtown Harlan, said most of the tourists want to know where they can find a good home-cooked meal and a drink.

“The sad part about that is if they want packaged beverages, we have to send them out of town,” Collins said.

As of today, Cumberland is the only city in the county where packaged alcohol sales take place, causing Roland Bo Lee, pastor of the Harvest Worship Center, to express his concern.

Lee said he did not see the economic factor behind making Harlan “wet,” adding he hasn’t seen any benefits from Cumberland’s sell of alcohol.

“For a community as a whole, we don’t see the promise of definitely any kind of blessing it’s going to bring to our community,” Lee said. “For us being in Harlan and having Cumberland in our county, Cumberland has had it for years and its not helped them at all.”

Harlan Tourism Executive Director Brandon Pennington said regardless of the outcomes from the wet-dry vote, tourism members will continue dedicating their time to revitalization efforts happening in downtown Harlan.

“With Harlan County being so resilient, one way or another, we’ll make it work,” Pennington said. “We’re here to stay. We’re here to make an impact. We’re here for a brighter future.”

City officials said if the vote allowing the sales passes, all taxes from the sales will go directly toward funding law enforcement in Harlan.

For more information regarding the wet-dry election, call the Harlan County Clerk’s Office at 606-573-3636.