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Serving Alcohol in Greenwood

Serving Alcohol in Greenwood:

City Council Passes Ordinance Containing the Restrictions on Applicants

The State of Arkansas has a loophole in the law that allows an applicant to bypass the will of the people and apply for a permit to sell/serve alcoholic beverages in a dry county or the dry district of a wet county. Since sometime in the 1940’s, the Greenwood district of Sebastian County has been “Dry” by a vote of the people.

The loophole in the law works like this: The Arkansas Alcohol Beverage Control Board has available an application process for a “Private Club” license even in a dry county where in theory, a club member is not buying the drink, but is paying for the service.

Before the application can be filed with that state board, the relevant local city council must pass an ordinance setting forth what it requires from the applicant. Those requirements include application fee, zoning rules, hours of operation and most importantly location. (Distance from a church, school, Alcoholics Anonymous Chapter Meeting site, compliance with zoning laws, parking requirements, traffic rules, etc.)

Most importantly, the city must also determine whether the intended applicant fits the statutory definition of a “Private Club” or not.

Monday evening, the Greenwood City Council passed its very restrictive version of such an ordinance by a vote of 4 to 2. We will provide the finished version to you once the “Application” for the permit has been drafted in the next 60 days.

The Council must also determine if it will allow “Variances” from the ordinance. This raises the question: “Why have the ordinance if you will allow an applicant to vary from its requirements?” That’s a lawyer’s dream come true and a rich field for litigation. If you vary it once, you’ll be in court with all the other applicants.

This does not open the door for alcohol sales. It establishes the rules under which an applicant must operate before applying to the state for a permit. The state board can still deny the application. The applicant might decide that the city’s ordinance is too restrictive, too exhaustive or too expensive to merit taking the matter further.

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