Controversy Brewing in Benton County?

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It seems some of those dollars Benton County was planning on earning by converting to a wet county are headed straight for Oklahoma.

Specifically, A & B Distributors Inc. of Muskogee appears poised to cash in on the dry-to-wet conversion. We base that largely on a recent report published by Northwest Arkansas Newspapers Inc.

According to the report, an entity named A & B Distributors of Arkansas has applied for a wholesale beer permit for Benton and Madison counties. The Anheuser-Busch distributor is based in Muskogee, Okla., and vice president of sales Jason Moreau told NAN the company is opening a branch in Arkansas to serve the aforementioned counties and plans to lease warehouse space in Rogers.

That was a surprise to us considering the existence of McBride Distributing Co. down the road in Fayetteville. We figured McBride was the logical choice to serve Benton and Madison counties.

When we inquired with Anheuser-Busch, we received the following statement via email from A-B regional vice president Keith Diggs:

“We have excellent wholesalers who provide great service throughout the Southwest region. We look forward to naming the wholesaler that will service Benton County after it goes wet once all necessary licenses have been obtained.”

A spokesperson also alerted us to the fact that because Benton County “borders Missouri and Oklahoma, wholesalers in those states are also potential choices to serve the county.”

An employee at Arkansas’ Alcoholic Beverage Control Division later told us she does not believe McBride has applied for permits in either county. Angela Ryan, owner of McBride, did not return a call seeking comment, but a source familiar with the situation told us “McBride is not happy.”

You can do your own math, but it seems apparent here it’s only a matter of time until A-B makes it official A & B will be serving Benton and Madison counties.


Miller Time           

All is good, meanwhile, at Fayetteville-based Premium Brands NWA, which distributes Miller Brewing Co. and Coors Brewing Co. products, among others. Miller Brewing Co. and Coors Brewing Co. merged in 2008, thus forming MillerCoors, and Premium Brands bought Coors of Western Arkansas in August.

Premium Brands general manager Heath Sutherlin told us his company is ready to serve Benton and Madison counties, and anticipates hiring as many as 10 additional employees.