WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - A hundred years after America’s Prohibition era began, the impact of alcohol on Wilmington’s culture is paving the way for an optimistic future of economic growth.
In recent years, the alcohol industry, specifically the craft beer industry, has become a major staple for the Cape Fear area. There are nearly 20 craft beer breweries in the area, with more on the way in 2020. Ellie Craig, marketing manager for Front Street Brewery, believes the industry’s brightest days are still ahead.
“Typically people drink within five miles of their home, so we’ve got a lot of real estate left to grow, a lot of residential areas that are popping up and continuing to be developed and as we continue to see that growth and development, we’ll continue to see craft breweries on the rise," she said.
Now that craft beer is becoming a crucial part of Wilmington’s unique identity, it’s hard to believe that 100 years ago, the mere possession of alcohol was illegal. As breweries have continued to grow in North Carolina, many believe that it’s the communal aspects that attract so many customers.
“Craft breweries have become our public houses. They’ve become a location where we fund raise, where we gather, where we celebrate. It really is a place where communities are created. So the fact that alcohol was so demonized during prohibition and has now become such an integral part of our culture, especially here locally, is pretty amazing,” Craig said.
Although speakeasies are now relics of a different time, The Blind Elephant, located in downtown Wilmington, adopts the look and aesthetic of those illegal hideaways, while exploiting the fun in sneaking off to a secret location. The establishment is hidden in an inconspicuous alley, but Ashley Tipper, the owner of The Blind Elephant, points out that this unique feature is ideal for a Prohibition-era bar.
“When you tell your friends ‘I know this great bar that has great drinks’ but you’re leading them down an alleyway, and then you open the door and it’s such a visual contrast from what’s inside to outside. I think people are thrilled, relieved, and then they get a good drink. It creates that 'I will be back here’ fan,” Tipper said.