Streams of whiskey to flow again in Neversink?

The former site of the Chestnut Woods restaurant in Grahamsville. Could the hamlet get a proper restaurant again? Depends on whether Neversink stays dry, its owner says.

It's been 75 years since a legal libation was sold in the Sullivan County town of Neversink, population 3,553. The town is one of just a handful in New York State to still be "dry." (Another tiny Catskills town is mostly-dry: Bovina, which had prohibited the sale of alcohol since 1947, voted in 2007 to allow alcohol to be sold on the premises of a hotel or resort.)

Neversink's long-held booze ban could end today. A referendum to legalize the sale of alcohol in Neversink is on the ballot, thanks to over 400 signatures on a petition drive spearheaded by local business owner Meigan Dean, who runs the Cannie D's convenience store.

Dean says that being able to sell beer at Cannie D's could mean the difference between surviving and thriving.

"Historically, beer sales pay the mortgage [at a convenience store]," she says. "If that giant mortgage takes care of itself, that opens up opportunities for expansion. It opens up opportunities to get more experienced help. It means you can afford to pay more, it means that as a business you can afford to even entertain health insurance for your employees."

A similar effort in 2006 was unsuccessful -- the petitioners failed to gather enough signatures to get the item on the ballot. And in the 1970s, another drive to overturn the ban also failed. (The Times Herald-Record ran a story in 2003 about the history of the Neversink booze ban, which in the 70s helped to scare off a group of developers who had been interested in building a ski resort in the area.)

The ban still has its supporters. A story in the THR this weekend notes that the critical balloon-animal-maker lobby is all for a dry Neversink:

Balloon artist Arthur Rubenzahl, a lifelong Neversink resident, defends the ban. Rubenzahl, 52, says alcohol sales bring the potential for increased crime and underage drinking.

"Everybody who lives here has a vehicle, and if they have a vehicle, they can buy their beer elsewhere," he said.

But this time, Dean thinks the referendum will pass.

"I have to be an optimist. I'm in business in New York," she quips. "And I'm still standing. Which is a lot better than a lot of the big guys."

Local realtor Jennifer Grimes (full disclosure: she's a Watershed Post advertiser) also has a personal stake in the ban being lifted. Grimes recently bought the building that used to house the Chestnut Woods restaurant in Grahamsville, a hamlet of Neversink. She'd like to open a restaurant in the building, she says, but without a liquor license, it's a financially risky proposition.

"Grahamsville does not have a lot of commerce. The Grahamsville deli, an insurance company, and a lawyer. And a guy who sculpts wood into eagles and bears," she says. "We need a proper restaurant, and a place to meet your friends and neighbors that isn't the dump."