First stores see beer and wine sales soar in Sharp County

SHARP COUNTY, AR (KAIT) – A new chapter has officially begunin Sharp County's history.

The first alcohol has made its way onto store shelves there sincevoters decided to make the county go 'wet' on Election Day.

People can now buy beer and wine at two Sharp County stores –the Wal-Mart in Ash Flat and the Rebel Station convenience store in Hardy.

The state Alcoholic Beverage Control board recently issuedboth stores the appropriate licenses to sell alcohol, which have resulted in a spikein sales.

"This is definitely a good shot in the arm for this time ofthe year," said Jerry Messer, who owns the Rebel Station.

Messer and his family run the store, which began sellingbeer last Thursday.

Business has picked up significantly since then, as theirstore is currently the only one in Hardy allowed to sell alcohol.

People can order a beer or a glass of wine with dinner atthe Pig 'n Whistle, a British-themed restaurant in Hardy, since it recently becamea private club.

"We do understand that everybody else is going to receivethe same thing once they get their license and start selling," Messer said. "It'sgoing to be a shot in the arm for everybody that wants to sell beer and wine."

Messer began applying for a license to sell beer and wineshortly after Sharp County voters approved the sale of alcohol in November.

He initially feared that his store's proximity to a nearbychurch would prevent him from selling alcohol.

Regulations state that a convenience store cannot sellalcohol within 350 feet of a church, school or similar facility. The RebelStation is located more than 600 feet from the church.

With that information in mind, he then decided to continuepursuing the beer and wine license so that he could compete with the two othergas stations in town.

"The tourists thatcome in here to float the [Spring River] and stuff, they're going to go wherethe beer and the gas and the cigarettes are," Messer said. "If you don't sellthe beer, they're just not going to stop."

Messer and his wife, Rhonda, fully intended to close theirstore until they learned the state approved their license two months after theyapplied for it.

"It was definitely crazy," Rhonda said, describing the firstday of sales. "The trucks pulled up wanting to buy right away, and I'm tryingto get them into the computer. It was definitely fun, absolutely fun."

That "fun" has hardly subsided, as customers like HarlanAndrews of Horseshoe Bend are still streaming in to buy cases of beer.

"[Sharp County] is going to collect the tax dollars ratherthan drive people off someplace else," Andrews said, who bought a 30-pack ofbeer at the Rebel Station Monday.

Just four days into its alcohol sales, the Rebel Station hashad to restock Budweiser three times.

The owners will soon make room for wine and wine coolers intheir refrigerators, but will have to buy extra coolers to house its softdrinks and water elsewhere.

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