A Liquid Market: Newly Wet Counties See Modest Tax Growth

by Kate Knable  on Monday, Oct. 8, 2012 12:00 am  

Rodney Hurst, right, and Mitch Pennington own Little Mo's Liquor Store in Gurdon, one of the four package liquor stores permitted in Clark County since voters there decided to "go wet" two years ago. (Photo by Michael Pirnique)

Boone County’s going wet has mainly damaged business for county-line liquor stores in wet Marion County, said Marion County Judge James Giles.

Rocky Kosh, whose family owns LJ’s Liquor in Pyatt at the western edge of Marion County, has cut back staffing hours by about 14 per week since Boone County went wet, but the store hasn’t cut its employee count. “It’s still trucking right along,” Kosh said of the store.

Hughes didn’t return phone calls seeking comment, but perhaps his store’s closure is a symptom of the spread rather than growth of liquor sales as Arkansas counties go wet.

“It’s just rearranged existing business. It’s a known fact in the industry,” said Stan Hastings, CEO of alcohol distributor Moon Distributors of Little Rock. “I don’t think people change their consumption trends. If you’re a teetotaler, you’re not going to start drinking just because there’s a store near you.”

Looking Ahead
In Clark County, however, locals hope legalized liquor sales will improve the area’s economic well-being long term.

Rodney Hurst in May opened Little Mo’s Liquor at Gurdon. He co-owns his store with Mitch Pennington, who was one of five people given a Clark County liquor permit during the lottery-style selection process.

Clark County was awarded five permits based on its population of 22,995 as of the 2010 census — that is, one permit to sell packaged liquor per 4,000 residents.

Hurst said towns in Clark County had greater opportunity to grow now that stores and restaurants can sell alcohol. Businesses are hesitant to relocate to dry areas, he said.

“Just about any town with a large population is in a wet county. For Arkadelphia ever to get there, I think going wet had to happen,” Hurst said.

Clark County Judge Ron Daniell said that since the county went wet, the Hamburger Barn began selling beer and wine and The Mirage, a sports bar, recently opened in the county.

“I was hoping when we got [Mirage], we could draw Outback or something like that, some bigger brand-name restaurant,” Daniell said. “It would be nice to have down here.”

Boone County Convenience
Boone County, with a population of 36,903 in 2010, was allotted nine liquor permits.



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