Activists Opposing Alcohol Rally at the State Capitol

March 20, 2004 -- Posted 6:15 CDT

Jonesboro, AR -- The debate over alcohol in dry counties is once again brewing in the state capitol.

An army against alcohol stood there today taking aim at the ABC Board.

"We're going to continue to see the widespread proliferation of alcohol into every dry county in Arkansas," said alcohol opponent Rev. Tommy Stacy.

The individuals at the capitol represent groups from many of the 43 dry counties and some wet counties in the state that say the ABC Board doesn't respect the wishes of people in dry counties. Those feelings surfaced after Piero's Main Street Bistro - a restaurant - was granted a liquor license. Some believe that was made possible because of Act 1813. This new law broadens the definition of what constitutes a private club.

"Until now about the only thing that doesn't qualify is the cafeteria of your local elementary school," said Steve Jacobson with Citizens Against Alcohol.

Opponents of liquor are fearful that every restaurant applying for a license will now be granted one.

"Piero's and one in Batesville were recently granted by our board based on that interpretation of the law and our interpretation of the law," said ABC Board Member Ron Fuller.

State Representative Chris Thyer of Jonesboro, who is also an attorney voted in favor of Act 1813, interprets the law differently.

"People from my mother on down the line have called me saying Chris you voted for liquor by the drink at Piero's -- no I didn't," said Thyer. "I voted for this particular law that would allow for alcohol in convention centers and other large establishments like that to help them promote tourism."

Thyer says participating at the capitol is good for democracy and he welcomes it, but he doesn't believe Pieros is setting a precedent for the future.

"I don't believe the law, as it is written now, can be used as a spring board for people wanting liquor licenses in other private establishments. The board itself voted for Piero's, and I'm not a member of that board," said Thyer.

If opponents want to have this law changed they must wait until January of 2005 when the General Assembly is meeting next.