ABC board awash in permit applications from newly wet counties


LITTLE ROCK — The state Alcoholic Beverage Control Board is considering dozens of applications for retail liquor permits this week in the wake of November elections that changed three Arkansas counties from dry to wet.

Voters elected to allow alcohol sales in Benton, Madison and Sharp counties. The ABC Board later received 71 applications for retail liquor permits for proposed liquor stores in Benton County, 10 for stores in Madison County and 43 for stores in Sharp County.

Arkansas law limits counties to one liquor store per 4,000 residents, so the state ABC Division held drawings to select 55 applicants from Benton County, three from Madison County and four from Sharp County. On Tuesday the ABC board began a three-day meeting to consider the applications.

The board approved all of the applications from Madison and Sharp counties on Tuesday. By mid-afternoon Wednesday, the board had approved 18 applications and rejected seven from Benton County. One application from Benton County was withdrawn by the applicant.

Charles Reeves of Gentry, who was granted a permit for Gentry Spirits, said Wednesday the process of obtaining the permit was “detailed” and “fascinating.”

Regarding Benton County’s change from dry to wet, Reeves said, “We live in a democratic republic, and I think the people spoke.”

More wet/dry elections could be forthcoming. Signatures are currently being gathered on petitions calling for elections to decide whether certain areas in North Little Rock, Jacksonville and Sherwood in Pulaski County will allow alcohol sales or stay dry. The rest of Pulaski County is already wet.

The elections are possible under Act 1018 of this year. The law allows an area that was voted dry by a defunct voting district to hold a local option election on allowing alcohol sales if at least 38 percent of registered voters in the area sign a petition requesting an election.