Read the fine print | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Read the fine print

Posted By on Tue, Apr 14, 2009 at 3:57 PM

Sounds like the firewater sellers have snuck another one past the church folks, a la the legislation that loosed a flood of booze on dry cities in the form of private clubs that could claim economic development benefits.

I knew the legislation that increased a variety of fees on alcohol sellers expanded the permitted hours for Sunday sales by about four hours, from 10 a.m. to midnight.

I apparently missed a key point. It would appear the law allowed existing alcohol sales permit holders to sell on Sunday, without a further local option vote -- not just restaurants, but also beer joints.

The news arises in the Harrison Daily Times today, where Ginger Shiras reports on the surprise with which Green Forest has received the news.

Tom Lawrence, who owns the Brew and Cue bar on the Green Forest public square, was put on hold Monday night when he told the Green Forest City Council that he was going to start serving beer on Sundays.

Lawrence said a lawyer at the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division had told him a new state law allowed him to do it without the city-wide election that was previously needed.

...

Mayor Richard Deweese told the council meeting that Sunday alcohol sale was a “hot topic” locally and said he wished local voters could decide. He asked Brown to check with the ABC and the state Attorney General’s office before Sunday, and Brown said he would do it today. Lawrence said he would check with the ABC again, too.

The article goes on to confirm the tavern operator's information, but also says local government can restrict hours of alcohol sales, including to no hours at all on Sunday. Thus, governing bodies might find themselves in the hot seat as alcohol sellers in cities previously dry on Sunday move to expand to Sunday hours.

So many bills. So few eyes to read them.

This is just on-premises consumption, by the way. Little Rock and others still must hold a vote before anyone can sell alcohol off-premise on a Sunday.

Nice anti-competitive touch in the bill. Only current permit holders can have Sunday sales, not future on-premise permit holders. (UPDATE: I asked the sponsor of this legislation to fact-check and he'd said I had facts correct, though he said there'd been reporting on the salient points. Michael Langley, the ABC director, wrote later and said the portion of the law that applies to "current" permit holders is not a limitation on future permit holders and old and new can sell on Sunday, local jurisdictions willing. The language is murky. The intent was obscured and meant to do far more than the average Arkie, as defined by a  Green Forest public official, ever knew. Which is my point about a lot of things that shoot through the legislature.)

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