By Meg Dickens
The Blackwells and Gelatos are making Johnson County history. Mountain Spirits Liquor Store is the county’s first liquor store.
Johnson County was a “dry county” until the November 2018 referendum vote approved both package store sales and liquor by the drink. Mountain City’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen issued two certificates of compliance for package stores at the end of August. Mountain Spirits passed state inspection on November 1, and owner Robert Blackwell plans to open his doors on Saturday, November 23.
The business started after Robert and Rosemary Blackwell noticed the struggle out-of-town family members faced during visits. The closest liquor store was a 45-minute to an hour drive both ways. After four years of hard work, Mountain Spirits has become a reality. The family-run business consists of Robert Blackwell and his siblings-in-law Kimberly and John Gelato. It will carry wine, beer, and regular liquor.
“We want to thank everyone that has helped us get to this point,” Rosemary explained. “Everyone’s support is appreciated.”
Locally there was a lot of pushback. Many thought that alcohol sales should not be allowed. Unhappy individuals argued online and, local pastors gathered at the Johnson County Commissioners meeting to protest against Sunday sales. On the other side, individuals claim this will bring in more revenue, which will help the area grow. The result is that the county and city will allow alcohol sales from 7 AM to closing on Monday through Saturday, and the city will allow Sunday sales starting at noon. These dates exclude Christmas, Thanksgiving, and Easter.
“Everyone is entitled to their beliefs,” said Rosemary when asked about those who oppose liquor in Johnson County. “We’re okay with that.”
Blackwell has a vested interest in opening a liquor store close to home. He lost his son, daughter-in-law, and 11-month-old granddaughter when a drunk driver hit them head-on going approximately 90 MPH. Opening a store nearby could reduce the time that people are on the road while intoxicated, which may decrease these types of accidents.
Mountain Spirits Liquor Store is located beside Poblano’s at 204 Pioneer Village Drive in Mountain City, TN.
Find out more information about Mountain Spirits at 423-460-1990.