Religious Leaders Protest Liquor By The Drink

March 10, 2003
Posted at: 10:00 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, Ark. -- Two days ahead of an important hearing before a House committee, local pastors organized a second protest against House Bill 1728.

HB 1728, a bill sponsored by Rep. Betty Pickett, D-Conway, would make it easier for residents of Jonesboro and Conway, and Craighead and Faulkner counties, to vote on allowing restaurants, hotels, and convention centers to sell liquor by the drink. Currently, both counties are "dry," with liquor sales limited to private clubs.

The bill goes before the House Rules Committee on Wednesday. Hearings on the legislation have been postponed on two consecutive occassions previously.

The religious leaders, along with political leaders, including Craighead County Judge Dale Haas, staged their demonstration, saying that the passage of the bill would not move Jonesboro further down the road to progress.

"We are just as opposed to this bill as we have ever been," said Tommy Stacy, a minister at North Main Baptist Church in Jonesboro. "The truth is, with once voice and one resolve, we will not give up, we will not let up, and we will not shut up until house bill 1728 is defeated."

Stacy has become the leading vocal opponent to the bill. Having addressed the Jonesboro City Council last week, and expressing his displeasure to KAIT of Rep. Paul Bookout's, D-Jonesboro, co-sponsorship of the bill.

Bookout's support also came with fellow Jonesboro Democrat Chris Thyer's. Both chose to add their names as co-sponsors of HB 1728 after amended language was added requiring restaurants to maintain food sales of at least 60% should it serve liquor by the drink.

According to supporters of the measure, the 60% amendment took away one of the chief arguments of religious leaders opposing the bill. On of those opponents is Pastor Steve Jacobson of Friendly Hope Baptist Church. He says that Region 8 residents should look at Memphis as an example of what could happen if liquor is sold in Jonesboro.

"If this is a quality of life issue," Jacobsen said. "I would invite anyone to drive down to Memphis, and look at the streets there, and see if that's the quality of life that they want to bring to Jonesboro."