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Story Publication logo April 27, 2018

Inspired by Kentucky, Leverett 'Pops' a Pub

A meeting of one of the facilitated discussions between Massachusetts and Kentucky participants of Hands Across the Hills. Image by Chana Rose Rabinovitz. Massachusetts, 2017.

Can a “liberal” New England college community and a “conservative” coal-mining Kentucky county’s...

Leverett and Letcher County residents gather at Kentucky Mist Moonshine in Whitesburg, Ky. Image by Richie Davis. United States, 2018.
Leverett and Letcher County residents gather at Kentucky Mist Moonshine in Whitesburg, Ky. Image by Richie Davis. United States, 2018.

LEVERETT—Don’t expect bourbon, or even moonshine.

But Leverett residents, including those recently returned from a cultural exchange to Kentucky, have long had a hankerin’ for a watering hole where they can come together.

The idea for the town’s first pop-up pub, planned for May 5 at Leverett Crafts and Arts, didn’t spring directly from the “bridging group” that returned this week from Letcher County in Eastern Kentucky’s coal-mining region, but it began soon after the 2016 presidential election. The idea came about at the first meeting of the Leverett Alliance, the group that reached out to Trump voters in this town where Hillary Clinton received 85 percent of the vote.

“In Leverett, we’ve always sort of been jealous of Shutesbury having the Shutesbury Athletic Club—a local bar where a diverse group of people can go and just have a beer and listen to some music,” said Kurt Adams, who advocated for such a place for a while. “Why can’t we have something like that? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could all come together, people of different political perspectives, with no agenda; we’re not going to talk politics. We’re all just regular people in town and let’s have some fun.”

At the Leverett Alliance meeting, designed to bring together people from across the political spectrum, about 60 people showed up at the library, according to Tom Wolff. He has been part of a committee to see about a pub pop-up.

Several said there should be a place to meet that’s not the transfer station or the Village Co-op, said Adams, but no one has jumped to take the risk of starting a business.

The pub, from 6 to 10 p.m., will be something of a trial ballon, with wine, beer and soda on sale, thanks to a one-day liquor license, organizers said. If it’s deemed a success, it could reappear quarterly or maybe monthly.

But Adams warned against too much success, since the fire code for the space allows for no more than 100 people.

There was brief talk of trying to find someone to buy the post office building when it became available, but that would have required an investment no one was willing to make, Wolff said.

“People want a place where they can come together,” added Wolff, who described the Eastern Kentucky residents’ community centers, in former school buildings or similar spaces, offering a great example of ways to connect people.

Aside from helping its 18 members get to know their Kentucky counterparts as part of the Hands Across the Hills project, Wolff said, “We fell in love with each other in Leverett. We live in these hilltowns, and we have connections with some people, but there’s no place to gather. I’ve been at meetings of 14 different houses in the last year and a half, and I’ve come to appreciate my neighbors. I really feel like this town is more of a community.”

Pat Fiero, another member of the planning committee, which has been meeting at The Harp in North Amherst, said, “We’re trying to reach across the divides and talk to people we don’t usually talk to and get to know as human beings.”

To liven it up, said Fiero, who was part of the Kentucky trip, there will be four bands and a name-that-pub contest.

The prize? “Some hooch we brought back,” she said. So there may be some bourbon and moonshine, after all.

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