NORTH LITTLE ROCK (KTHV) - Some Arkansas communities may get a chance to go from being a dry area to wet one if a proposed bill clears the legislature this session.
Senate Bill 374 has already cleared the Senate, and it's on the House agenda on Tuesday. If approved, it will allow specific areas that are dry in an overall wet county to let voters in those areas decide on a change, and the areas include the Park Hill neighborhood of North Little Rock.
La Salsa Mexican Restaurant in North Little Rock's Park Hill neighborhood is one of the few places in this community where folks like Kevin Cates and wife can have a beer with dinner.
"We like to have a drink every once in awhile. The membership thing is a little bit inconvenient. It seems like it's just kind of this formality that they could kind of avoid," Cates said.
Operating as a private club, the Park Hill restaurant can sell alcohol in a dry area, but staying dry here may not be for long if lawmakers pass a proposed bill this session.
"It will open us up to put an election to the people that are in now dry areas that we want to make wet. It gives them the right to vote for it," Terry Hartwick said, president of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce. He's been among those, pushing Senate Bill 374 for six months now. "We don't want liquor stores. We're talking about really mixed drinks, by the glass or beer, wine."
Hartwick feels by allowing restaurants to serve those kinds of drinks, the city will bring more restaurants and bistros to Park Hill and fill some of the vacancies.
"We're looking at economic development, people to work, sales tax, frequent the area and bringing Park Hill back to life," Hartwick said.
Diners like Cates see that, too.
"They keep talking about revitalizing this area, and I think that's one of the missing pieces that they could include to bring more people here," Cates said.
THV 11also spoke with the President of the Park Hill Neighborhood Association. Stephanie Minyard said that the group's not taking an official stance on this bill, but she says the feedback so far is positive. There is a meeting Tuesday night for Park Hill merchants to learn more about this bill. It's from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the Park Hill Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall.
Hartwick said back in the 1950's voters approved a dry area for Park Hill since Pulaski County is wet, and it's stayed that way ever since.
Hartwick also said that there are other parts of Pulaski County with pockets of dry areas in Sherwood and Jacksonville. He said leaders from those communities are pushing for this bill as well.