Fifteen minutes down State Route 32 from Athens, there is a village where selling alcohol is outlawed.
Between uptown bars, spring fests and the occasional festival, there are few obstacles in the way of Bobcats looking to get their drink on in Athens.
About 15 minutes down State Route 32 in Albany, the options aren’t as plentiful. There are no bartenders mixing cocktails and no convenience store clerks doling out six-packs.
Albany is a dry village, meaning selling alcohol within its borders is illegal. That’s the way it’s been for as long as Mayor Tim Kirkendall can remember.
Businesses can’t sell alcohol or have a liquor license, Kirkendall said. Albany Police Department doesn’t actively enforce the law, but he said that Columbus' divisions of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives monitor it.
Matt Mullins, spokesman for the Ohio Division of Liquor Control said there are different levels of wet and dry. A particular business can sell alcohol even if the town is dry, should the business owners obtain a permit through a public vote.
“It is authorized by local option votes since the end of prohibition in 1933,” Mullins said. “A particular business can have alcohol sales if it is passed by voters.”
Ohio has roots in the temperance movement. The Anti-Saloon League was founded in Ohio in the late 19th century before it faded out of existence when prohibition ended. But 80 or so years later, Kirkendall and Westerville-based temperance historian Beth Weinhardt couldn’t point to any other governments in Ohio that were entirely dry.
Some in Albany think that teetotaling comes at a price for the local economy.
Monika Bennett, owner of Uptown Athens’ Raphael’s, an Aveda Concept Salon, and an Albany native, said her hometown is a family-oriented place, but it lacks jobs that could be created if beer and liquor were added to the equation.
“Albany has a small town feel, but it needs more revenue to survive,” Bennett said.
But Bennett even admits she’s not crazy about the idea of a bar setting up shop in the village where she grew up and still lives. A convenience store or restaurant with a liquor license sounds like a better idea to her.
She plans to open a bed and breakfast doubling as an event venue next year in Albany, and thinks she could get more business if she had a liquor license.
Tina Stanley, manager of Marathon Food Center in Albany said that folks frequently come in the store and ask for alcohol without any luck. For the 19 years Stanley has been manager, she said she’s been turning them away.
Kirkendall still maintains that keeping his village dry has deterred most crime. But he said there’s a store owner in the village seeking a petition to serve alcohol at their business.
“Most people (here) drink responsibly.” Kirkendall said. “It is the people who do not that are the problem.”
Despite Bennett’s frustration with her town’s anti-alcohol position, she said her neighbors always find a way to pop a few bottles no matter what.
“People will go far and wide if they want alcohol,” Bennett said.