For decades, people in Louisa have crossed a bridge into West Virginia if they wanted a beer or a glass of wine.
When enough signatures are collected on petitions already being circulated from door to door and greeting customers on counters at businesses throughout the city, the people of Louisa will be asked to decide if they want to keep their money on the Kentucky side of the three rivers at the edge of town.
“We filled up half the petition on the first day,” said Violet Trout, a pro-alcohol advocate in Louisa.
“I am amazed. The federal government spent millions on Yatesville Lake and the golf course, and that draws people in from all over. But, when they find out there’s no 19th hole on the golf course ... or they want a nice meal, they’re absolutely shocked and mortified that we are dry,” Trout continued. “The problem is they come the first time and they don’t come back — and they spread the word.”
A golf fan herself, Trout said Eagle Ridge Golf Course at Yatesville Lake is a PGA-rated facility that has been rumored to be the site of a future pro event.
“If the PGA comes and there are none of the things that civilization offers, they won’t be back,” she said.
Trout is aware of those in Louisa who are opposed to the sale of alcohol based on religious beliefs, although she said such sentiments are simply working against Louisa’s future.
“It’s a false morality, and we feed our fears here instead of living our faith,” Trout said. “This city is dying, and that is the God’s honest truth. If people love Louisa like people they say they do, why do you sit here and watch it die?”
As the wife and employee of a Louisa doctor, Trout said her time in the medical field has taught her addiction can take different forms.
“People can also be addicted to misery and ain’t it awful,” she said.
Louisa Mayor Teddy Preston said he was one of two elected officials who declined to sign the petition when business man Gene Wilson presented it to the city council, although he emphasized he is neither opposed or in favor of the proposal.
“As the mayor of Louisa, I am neutral on it. Whatever the voters want to do. I’m going to let the public decide if they want it wet or dry,” Preston said.
“Will it help Louisa? It’ll have to be proven to me before I’ll believe it,” he continued, pointing across the river to Ft. Gay for an example.
“What has Ft. Gay got? It’s not helped them,” he said, adding alcohol sales have also failed to produce any growth in nearby Paintsville, even though the mayor there has told Preston the city is already benefitting from increased revenues produced by alcohol sales.
Preston said he is aware that officials with Applebee’s restaurant have indicated an interest in a Louisa location if the city allows the sale of alcohol. “That’s the only good thing I can see from it. It might provide a few new eateries ... and we could use that,” he said, later adding he doesn’t believe alcohol sales “will wave a wand over Louisa” and boost the local economy in a significant way.
A spokesman for the Lawrence County clerk’s office said no petitions seeking a local wet/dry election have yet been filed at that office.
TIM PRESTON can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (606) 326-2651.