Despite Recent Openings, Arkansas Restaurant Market 'Flat'

Have you noticed a flurry of new restaurants in the state in 2012?

Packet House Grill in Little Rock, Taziki’s in Conway and Houlihan’s in Rogers have already opened, and Little Rock in November has the openings of Local Lime, Utopia Restaurant & Lounge and Dixon Road Blues Cafe on the agenda. And those are just a handful of names that come to mind for your Whispers writers.

So, we wondered if the Arkansas restaurant market is growing post-recession.

Not so, said Ed Barham, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Health. Restaurants can’t open in the state without permits from ADH, and the year-over-year totals of active food service permits aren’t tremendously encouraging when analyzed, he said.

In December 2011, the state had 15,759 active permits, Barham said. Last week, the state had 15,792. Thirty-three new permits statewide is barely a blip.

The number of permits is up by about 1,000 since 2009, but that is mainly because the ADH began requiring permits for school concession stands.