City Council Hears Both Sides of Proposed Alcohol Ordinance

February 6, 2007 - Posted at 10:29 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- Do Jonesboro's 17 private clubs need to be regulated by the city? On Tuesday night, the debate officially began in front of the Jonesboro City Council. Of the 17 private clubs in the city limits.... only the leadership and management of the Fraternal Order of Eagles stepped up to take issue with the proposed ordinance during Tuesday's meeting.

"The ordinance is not about a wet or dry issue. It's about setting some rules to govern ourselves locally that fit our community," said Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates to the city council.

Before a packed audience Tuesday night, both sides spoke out about Yates' proposal regulating Jonesboro's alcohol control.

"My board of trustees has reported back to me and told me that if we begin closing at 2:00 a.m., were going to lose a half a million dollars a year in revenue coming into the Fraternal Order of Eagles.  That's a half a million dollars a year that we will not be able to give to our charities," said Skeeter Nash, representing the FOE.

"Ladies and gentlemen, we need this before we are mopping up blood from the floor and before I have to look someone in the eye and tell them that their spouse, or their child or loved one is dead," commented Chief Yates as he addressed the council.

The proposal would close Craighead County's private clubs at 2:00 a.m. and require the clubs pay a franchise fee, along with a five percent tax on alcohol sales.

"The tax is just a little bit high, we'd like to see a 3% or 2%," said Eagles Trustee Doug Mathis.

"I think setting a standard shutting time for all of these clubs eliminates the possibility of people running from club to club trying to get in the last few drinks before they go home," said Pastor Steve Jacobson of the Friendly Hope Baptist Church.

"A lot of our members and stuff have second shift jobs and work restaurants late night and they don't get off until midnight and they like us to stay open later because by the time they go home and get cleaned up and everything and get out to the club, it's already 1:30.  So if we have to close at 2:00, they don't have the opportunity as the other citizens of Jonesboro to come out and relax," explained Mathis.

The issue is scheduled for at least two more sessions of public comment before the city council.