Alcohol Ordinance Changing Jonesboro Club Scene

February 21, 2007 - Posted at 6:02 p.m. CST

JONESBORO, AR -- "It gives us some options that we didn't have to prevent things from getting out of hand in the future," said Jonesboro Police Chief Mike Yates talking about the city's new alcohol ordinance.

As police chief, Mike Yates feels it is his job to reduce crime in Jonesboro and he feels the new ordinance passed at Tuesday city council meeting will give him the tools needed to help make that happen.

A number of towns across the country have alcohol ordinances, but with Craighead County being a dry county it wasn't something that was seriously considered until recently. With the increasing number of private clubs popping up across Jonesboro, it was becoming harder for the state to enforce regulations making a city ordinance vital.

"Now we have the authority to enforce essentially the same thing that is in state law that the state didn't have the resources to do," said Yates.

Yates says most of the items in the ordinance were already state law. However there are several items like the 3% tax on alcohol revenue that will be new for city clubs.

"In my mind it is the fairest tax there is because it is specifically user based," said Yates.

The other major part of the ordinance is all private clubs must close by 2 a.m.

"If you go back and do the analysis of criminal events at the private clubs that most of our serious events have transpired after that point in time," said Yates.

According Chief Yates, the 2 a.m. closing time is a time when clubs must stop serving alcohol.  They then have 30 minutes to make sure all patrons are out of the club, if they don't comply they could be subject to some serious penalties.

"There are administrative penalties that apply towards your license you could be placed on probation, it could be suspended or it could be revoked," said Yates.

Under the new ordinance club owners will have to pay a permit fee to the city based on their seating capacity.

"I think if it were not for the 3 % tax and having to pay the small initial fee I think the majority of our private clubs wouldn't have any problem with it at all," said Yates.

The chief did say there are two or three clubs that are strongly against the ordinance and the reasons are obvious.

"They know the way they have operated and they know they will not be able to operate that way anymore," said Yates.

According to Chief Yates, the money raised from the alcohol tax and permit fee will go to Jonesboro's general fund, and the chief hopes to rededicate that money at a later date to DUI enforcement, DARE or other preventative programs.  He says he is currently in the process of working on a guide to make the transition easier for club owners.