SEARCY, Ark. (KTHV) - Two businesses are trying to push Searcy in a new direction. But lots of people, including the White County Sheriff, are pushing back.
Two restaurants have applied for private club permits which would allow them to serve alcohol. The Rock House and El Almacen filed paperwork with the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division earlier this month. The applications have drawn numerous comments and complaints, in part because White County is one of 35 dry counties among the 75 counties in Arkansas.
“I work at a restaurant. People come in, ordering wine, and they don’t understand,” Morgan Meeds said Monday afternoon. “Some people don’t even know what a dry county is, and it’s just baffling to them.”
Meeds is one of many people who believe it is time for White County and Searcy to modernize and allow the sale of alcohol.
“I feel like the restaurants would make a lot more money, and I think it’d be good for the town, honestly,” she said.
“I would like that,” agreed Ian Wright, “because most times, you have to go all the way to Little Rock, or Cabot, or some places like that.”
Many disagree. A spokesperson said Sheriff Ricky Shourd plans to file an objection to the permits, and the College Church of Christ sent an email to its members asking them to call state regulators and and both restaurants to state their concerns.
Among their concerns is the location of the two restaurants. The Rock House is across the street from Harding University and Harding Academy, and El Almacen is a couple blocks away. Meeds said distance from an adult beverage does not deter people who want one.
“Everyone I know goes and finds it, at Ace or Hog Wild,” she said, referring to a pair of liquor stores in Cabot. “Whatever they want, it’s not a problem! So, I don’t feel like it’d be a problem having it in the town, at all.”
While supporters believe the convenience and potential economic impact outweigh any moral or safety concerns, Ian Wright suggested the restaurants use breathalyzers to limit the negative effects of alcohol.
“Doing stupid stuff, and driving while their drunk, that could kill people,” he stated. “We wouldn’t want anybody to do that.”
The applications will not be presented to the ABC board until its meeting on June 21. ABC’s director will review the file and decide whether to approve or deny, though there could be appeals to the full board and to a judge that extend the process much longer.
While the email from College Church of Christ told its members to write, call, or email the ABC director, a staff member said most people have called or emailed. However, only letters can be included in the official file, as long as they are mailed or hand-delivered.