Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

June 30, 2013

TIM PRESTON: Level heads in Grayson, a bird’s tale, rails and ales

Tim Preston
The Independent

ASHLAND — I have to admit I was impressed.

I sat in on the first hour or so of a meeting in Grayson last week as the city’s elected officials and a handful of business owners and others  gathered to discuss the sale of alcohol in the city. You didn’t need any special powers of perception to determine this is something the city’s leaders have never before dealt with, and that there is a certain “scared of doing anything wrong” factor, but it was truly remarkable that the group just knuckled down and had honest exchanges of information regarding things they need to consider before drafting an ordinance. There was no name-calling, finger-pointing or back-biting — not at all what I’ve come to expect from meetings in Carter County.

The wet/dry election in Grayson brought out some ugly and emotional displays. And, in a couple of cases I’ve learned about, it even divided families. People called their neighbors liars, labeled them as stupid and practically/openly accused them of serving Satan himself. On the flip side, you had a few people “working for the devil in the name of the Lord” by insisting upon turning a blind eye to the longstanding tradition of illegal alcohol sales, which existed only because legal sales were denied.

All of that aside, the people who have the real-world task of writing and approving the city’s rules rose above such squabbling and worked together, at least initially, to come up with a sort of checklist for hometown considerations.

I expected the friendly tone of the meeting to shift dramatically when the subject of  Sunday sales came up. The council members, city attorney and audience members alike, however, maintained a “just the facts” attitude as they shared that Sunday sales can’t be enacted by a vote, and must be adopted by the city council if it is to be allowed. The conversation immediately reflected the fact that the city of Grayson can’t expect any interest from a sports-bar type of restaurant, where patrons tend to enjoy a few beers while watching football games and NASCAR races on Sundays, if the option for Sunday sales is not approved.

According to the best guesses, it will be at least 60 days, and more likely up to 90 days, before anyone buys the first legal drink in Grayson. That gives the city just enough time to think about things like planning and zoning considerations and who to hire/appoint as the city’s ABC administrator without any need to rush to judgement about anything.

Based on my limited observations, it seems many in Grayson voted in favor of alcohol sales not because they want a drink, but because they want something to eat. Or, they are tired of having to travel up the interstate for a meal at a place like Ashland’s Texas Roadhouse, or just to have a beer with a taco. I am a habitual license-plate observer in parking lots and fear no contradiction when I say people from Carter County spend a lot of time at restaurants in Ashland. I think it’s safe to assume those folks also spend a generous amount of their income while enjoying their evenings in Ashland.

I’m not sure how much stock to take in the rumors that Applebee’s will open a restaurant in Grayson, although it is certain such an establishment would

never move there without the option of alcohol sales. During Monday’s special meeting, the name “Kahuna’s” (a sports bar in Boyd County) was mentioned often, and I believe the city of Grayson could certainly find someone willing to invest in a similar business now that it is possible for such an investment to pay off there.

Speaking for myself, Grayson is the place where I enjoyed some of the best Italian food I’ve had in years (at Melini Cuzina Italian), but the meal was dramatically compromised by the fact that I could only have a fizzy, sugar-filled soda, or a glass of tea or water, alongside.

Put a single glass of decent red wine next to the that plate and “foodies” throughout the region just might beat a path to Grayson a couple of times a week.

Story had wings

I have been astounded by the reaction to a recent story I wrote about a white pigeon finding a new home at Ashland Cycle Center. I’m still getting bird-related calls and messages.

If you missed it, cycle center co-owner Stacy Keelin called and asked if I might be interested in an unusual visitor in their parking lot. At that moment, I was crazy busy and almost asked Keelin “Are you kidding me?” before adding, “I have more important things to do! Leave me alone!” I am so glad I didn’t react that way, although I did ask her to email a photo of the bird, thinking there was no way that could really turn into a good story. Before I opened her email, however, I started thinking, “What if this is some lost homing pigeon fram a faraway land? I probably should have paid more attention.” When I did view the photo she passed along and noticed the distinctive leg bands attached to the little white bird, I just dropped everything, grabbed a camera and prayed I hadn’t missed my opportunity.

The symbolic bird, which was apparently trying to find its way back to Staten Island after being released as part of a funeral service in Columbia, Tenn., when it decided to take a break at the business beneath the blue bridge, can never know the ripple of interstate excitement it caused.

I know I won’t be able to jump and run anytime somebody calls about an unusual bird, but I’m glad I took the time to chase after that one.

Rails & Ales

I rarely cross the state line between Kentucky and West Virginia, but a fellow reporter/musician/homebrewer in that city (you all know him) passed along a note about a first-time festival which might be of real interest to a few of my fellow “beer snobs” and homebrewers here in the bluegrass state.

He reported the Rails and Ales Festival is set to run from 1 to 6 p.m. on Aug. 17, with a limited number of advance tickets now on sale for the festival at Heritage Station’s patio.

“It will feature craft beers and microbrews from such breweries as Morgantown Brewing Co., Bridge Brew Works, Great Lakes Brewing Co., and many more still to be announced,” he said. “Also, Global Distributors will be bringing as many as 11 different imports, about half of those will be just entering the West Virginia market at that time. Just a few of the craft brews will include: Gulden Draak, Piraat, Wittekerke, Petrus and Bavik and Flying Dog, which is sending its Kujo Imperial Coffee Stout.”

Tickets are $25 and are available only at Bottle & Wedge, the craft beer store in Heritage Station, at 210 11th St., Huntington. Bottle and Wedge, which opened in 2011, features more than 200 varieties of craft and imported beers and build-your-own six packs.

“The first-year fest will feature a steady stream of live music from the gazebo stage, vendors, including La Famiglia (selling meatball subs), Backyard Pizza and Raw Bar (selling pizza) and Giovanni’s (selling wings),” our friend continued. “Other Heritage Station shops such as Let’s Eat and River and Rail Bakery will also be open for food. There will also be live music from such bands as the jug band, Big Rock and the Candyass Mountain Boys, which features five homebrewers.”

For more info and updates on the fest, check out the Facebook pages of Bottle and Wedge and Rails and Ales Festival.

TIM PRESTON can be reached at tpreston@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2651.