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Prohibition Still Lives in Pennsylvania

Posted: March 27, 2009 19:55:05 • 639 words

BELLEVUE, Pa. -- A local community will remain a dry town until at least 2011.

The town of Bellevue fell short of the required number of signatures needed to place a referendum question regarding community alcohol sales on the spring primary ballot.

The question would have asked residents if they wanted to permit restaurants and bars to sell beer, wine and liquor by the drink.

Since the end of Prohibition in 1933, Bellevue has not allowed businesses to sell alcohol by the drink.

Organizers of the referendum effort had hoped to generate more business by increasing foot traffic through town.

The town has one beer distributor.

Local Community Dry Since Prohibition To Remain Dry on WPXI

Am I the only one who thought that towns like this only existed in the realms of urban legend and weird country songs? And in Pittsburgh, no less? I mean, I'd expect to find this sort of thing in places like Georgia, or in Virginia, but Pittsburgh? The city as a whole really isn't very conservative or religious, and beer is huge there.

I did a bit of research, and Pittsburgh-area bloggers have written much more about this than I could hope to. "Live Mike", who appears to live in Bellevue, has a very lengthy article against the referendum (among other local ordinance changes). Three of them, in fact. In his first post, he goes over the history of alcohol prohibition in the town. His second post touches on the more tangible effects of the passage of this referendum, and brings up a very good point; Bellevue is quite tiny, and close to downtown, so there are plenty of bars around its perimeter. And, his third post speculates on the effects of the referendum's passage. Overall, a very well-written series, regardless of your position on the matter.

And, while Live Mike and I would probably hate each other if we actually had a conversation, I actually support his position on this. Sort of. I think it's kinda silly to outlaw alcohol anywhere, and I think the temperance movement was and is a ridiculous waste of time. But, I'm also a fan of the right for communities to preserve their culture however they see fit, as long as they're not violating any human rights in the process. The US is too big for nationwide blue laws, and almost all states too big for such laws as well. But, cities and towns (and counties, in some cases) are a nice size for blue laws to work well, if supported by the majority of residents, because cultural differences rarely follow state lines. Laws that make sense in Southern California would rarely make sense in rural Virginia, and some of our local ordinances and state laws would cause riots out there.

So, if the majority of Bellevue residents (which is what it sounds like the situation is) want to keep this law on the books, I hope that no one interferes with their right to continue that tradition (like how the Mormon church and dozens of outside groups interfered in Californians' right to define marriage how they wanted to). Considering that the town's been "dry" since the 1800s, I doubt that anyone moving there or currently living there would be caught off-guard by the town's lack of bars. And, since it's not exactly an isolated area, it might be better for the supporters of this referendum to relocate, or not move there in the first place. I know I wouldn't want to live there (I don't drink, but I sense major morality differences between myself and the residents of Bellevue), but if some people do, more power to 'em.

And, for those who are curious, I couldn't seem to find any blog posts supporting the referendum.