Independence County Pushing to Go Wet

A group of Independence County residents wants to legalize alcohol sales across the county.

Phillip Finch, chairman of Wet/Dry Let’s Decide, said he plans to start gathering signatures next month to place the question on the ballot in November.

The decision to stop selling alcohol was made during World War II, he said.

“We haven’t had a vote on it since,” said Finch, a retired airline pilot for Delta Air Lines. “So I would think that young people in our county would like to have a say. Whether it’s pro or con, it should go to the voters.”

Finch said that if the initiative passes, he hopes alcohol sales will generate tax revenue for the cities and county.

Finch said that it’s hard to quantify the amount of alcohol tax revenue the county loses to surrounding counties. “But I know it’s significant,” he said.

The campaign will cost about $10,000 and be paid for by donors, Finch said. Attorney Nathan Chaney of Arkadelphia has been hired to write the ballot question and give advice because he’s been involved in successful wet county campaigns in the past.

“The vast majority of feedback I’m getting is for it,” Finch said.

The group will need to collect 38 percent of signatures from the approximately 19,100 registered voters in the county, or about 8,000, to get the item on the ballot.

But if it makes it, the trend in recent years has been for voters to approve alcohol sales, said Michael Langley, director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

Six counties have voted to go wet in the past seven years. He said there are only six out of 75 counties that still are “truly dry.”

“I think that it’s a result of times have changed,” he said. “Whether it’s a dry county or not, if somebody wants to have a drink, they’re going to have one.”