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No Word Yet on White County Going Wet

2 min read

Have you heard that alcohol by the drink may actually be coming to one or more restaurants in Searcy?

Whispers has heard that too, but diligent efforts to find evidence or details came up short.

White County is dry. Very dry. Searcy is the home of teetotaling Harding University, and only four private clubs in the county currently have permits: VFW posts at Beebe and Searcy, the Elks Club at Searcy and the Searcy Country Club.

No application for a new permit, which would be necessary to make the chatter come true, had been filed with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division as of the weekly report on Feb. 10, and a Freedom of Information Act request for any correspondence concerning a private club license in Searcy was fruitless.

Still, the rumors persist.

One has it that some of the Mexican restaurants in town will be the first to give it a try.

Another suggests that Applebee’s could be interested in opening in Searcy.

“Nothing to report,” Melissa Hariri, senior manager of communications for the bar and grill chain, said in an email. “We cannot comment on potential openings.”

Buck Layne, president of the Searcy Chamber of Commerce, said he knew of no firm plans. But, he said, it’s only a matter of time before Searcy sees the same phenomenon as Conway in dry Faulkner County and Jonesboro in dry Craighead County.

“Somebody will make a move like that to have a private club,” Layne said, hastening to add that the chamber has taken no official position for or against the idea.

Montine McNulty, executive director of the Arkansas Hospitality Association, also knew of no specific plan but won’t be surprised.

“Searcy is sort of on the move with trying to get more development in the travel-restaurant-hotel industry,” she said.

And alcohol has been rapidly moving into parts of the state that had been dry for decades.

“I’ve seen more changing in alcohol laws in the last five years than in the history of the state,” McNulty said, with only a slight bit of hyperbole.

Trivia of the day: White County is not the driest county in the state.

There are three dry counties with no private club permits at all: Lafayette, Lincoln and Newton. (White County does, however, have more than twice the population of those three counties combined.)

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