ABC Says Private Club Sign-ins On The Way Out

The state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division has proposed ending the requirement that private clubs in Arkansas’ “dry” counties maintain signature log books to record the names of their “guests” — i.e., customers.

Michael Langley, ABC director, met with owners of private clubs in Faulkner and Craighead counties earlier this year to let them know of the planned rule change. He told Arkansas Business that the announcement was met with applause.

Private clubs serving alcohol will still be required to keep membership records; they just no longer will have to ask members and guests to sign in. Langley said the move essentially is an acknowledgement of a couple of realities: that many private clubs no longer asked their customers to sign in anyway and that customer sign-ins were often blatantly fictional anyway, with “Babe Ruth” and “Bobby Petrino” appearing on the logs more than is possible with either the deceased Ruth or the exiled Petrino.

Langley said the meetings were held for Faulkner and Craighead counties because each has more than 30 private clubs, including a number of chain restaurants that are classified as private clubs to allow the sale of alcohol.

The clubs will still require memberships — that’s why they’re “clubs” — of those who dine in them, and diners who aren’t members still must be the guests of members or become members themselves, the cost of which is usually zero.

An owner of a Conway private club — i.e., restaurant — told Arkansas Business his take-away from the meeting was: “That books were no longer required. You just asked someone whether they were a member and if they said yes, you sat them; if they said no, you had them fill out paperwork.”

Langley said the proposed rule change had been submitted to the Review Subcommittee of the Arkansas Legislative Council, which in turn had referred it to the Joint State Agencies Committee for review. He’s not expecting opposition.

Langley said most private clubs are moving to a computerized system anyway, in which they ask for visitors’ membership cards, which are then swiped to record the visit. “It’s much easier than keeping a signature log book,” he said.

The Conway restaurateur said he was heartened by the proposed change, which was going to make his life easier. “Unless you act crazy, you’re a member,” he said. “I think the ABC, they want the whole state to be wet and this will make it a little bit easier to do so.”

And, he noted, if Harrison (Boone County) and Arkadelphia (Clark County) can go wet, then who can’t?