In downtown Johnson City alone, where four years ago there were none, there are now four operating breweries and two more confirmed to be opening this year. Along with them came their affiliated taprooms and independent watering holes dedicated to catering to adults interested in following the craft beer trend.
Local economic development officials say the new breweries have helped ferment the growth in the previously forgotten downtowns in our region and have added to the quality of life of residents, something prospective employers now value above many other traditional business statistics.
Festivals based around celebrating and enjoying craft beer abound in all three of the Tri-Cities and draw hundreds per event, even in cold, wet weather.
Last week, Erwin’s Beverage Board paved the way for a new brewery downtown by removing requirements for businesses selling alcohol for on-site consumption to get at least 60 percent of their revenues from the sale of food.
But the new brews and bars bring a greater potential for abuse, some say, which contributes to traffic deaths, domestic violence and general poor health.
In Tennessee last year, there were 6,094 known alcohol-related traffic crashes, according to the state Department of Safety and Homeland Security, 108 of them in Washington County.
Those numbers are down significantly from 10 years ago, when the state recorded 7,966 crashes in which alcohol played a factor, including 214 in Washington County.
Likewise, in 2016, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported Tennessee’s 223 drunken driving deaths decreased 11 percent over the previous year, making it one of 13 states and territories to see a decline.
But the common factor attributed to those crashes and deaths was still alcohol, and those opposed to alcohol consumption would say some of them could have been prevented had those responsible not been able to imbibe.
That’s why we want to hear from you. Is craft beer a boon or a burden?
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