Bill proposes local gov't decide fate of private club permits

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) - A bill in the Arkansas Legislature would give local government the first say in approving or denying private club permits in dry counties. The Arkansas Beverage Control Board currently decides the fate of restaurants and clubs to serve alcohol, But Arkansas Representative, John Payton, wants to give that authority to local elected officials.
Local Region 8 restaurant, Skinny J's, has been in Downtown Jonesboro for about two years now. Manager, Sarah Reeves tells Region 8 News that since moving from their location in Cash, they've had their private club license.
The license was something they had to get through the ABC board. However, if House Bill 1387 becomes law, it'd be up to the city council or quorum court to decide whether or not a private club permit gets the O-K.
Reeves told Region 8 News she thinks the bill could go one of two ways.
"We've been a dry county for so long, that I don't think everyone knows everything the alcohol board in Little Rock actually knows," Reeves said.
She said that lack of education in this area might make for uninformed decisions.
"Alcohol and being a private club is such a huge responsibility," Reeves explained. "I think there would need to be a lot more educating and a lot more that we would need to know around the area before we could just be giving anybody and everybody a private club license."
However, Reeves said she sees the benefits of having hometown people who know the area and the establishment make a decision.
"There are ABC agents in our area and there are people around who come around and monitor that but I think with city council and with those people actually being customers in the area, actually being here, actually seeing what's going on that it could be a benefit," Reeves said.
The bill states multiple factors would play into permit approval. The number of private clubs in the area, economic impact and input from local law enforcement and the public are just a few.
Reeves feels bringing it to the local level might get residents more involved.
"There are so many people in Jonesboro that have an opinion on it and have been affected by it one way or another."
According to the ABC Board, over 250 private clubs are allowed to sell alcoholic beverages in the state's 37 dry counties.
Region 8 News will continue to track the status of this bill and keep you updated.

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