x

Little Rock's Leading Local News: Weather, Traffic, Sports and more | Little Rock, Arkansas | THV11.com

State officials cracking down on Arkansas bars not following social distancing guidelines

Agents with Alcohol and Beverage Control will be routinely checking in with bars across the state, making sure social distancing is taken seriously.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Gov. Asa Hutchinson is asking the Alcohol and Beverage Control Board to keep a close eye on bars as COVID-19 cases continue to trend upward in Arkansas.

It's a move that comes the same day the governor of Texas orders all bars to re-close and Florida suspended serving drinks at its bars.

RELATED: Texas governor: Bars must close at noon today, restaurants to reduce to 50%, outdoor gatherings limited

"We know that we can't continue to stay open if we don't each individually take responsibility for mask-wearing and social distancing," Susan Erwin Prowse said.

Prowse, who works at Willy D's in downtown Little Rock, is concerned about a neighboring state having to re-close.

"We're doing everything we can to keep within [Gov. Hutchinson's] guidelines so we don't have to do that," she said.

Scott Hardin is the spokesperson for the ABC Board. If an agent sees a bar operating at more than two-thirds capacity, it could result in fines and potentially probation. They will also be reported to the health department. 

“As the governor noted, ABC agents have a job to do and that’s making sure Arkansans are safe and that the establishments are abiding by the guidelines," Hardin said.

Guidelines will be just as enforced as making sure a bar is not serving anyone under the age of 21. Hardin points to the TempleLive venue in Fort Smith incident back in May as an example, when the owner would not back off on holding a concert. The Arkansas Department of Health sent a cease-and-desist letter, and the venue lost its liquor license.

"If there is a bar that is just totally disregarding the health department guidelines, it can result in some serious violations," Hardin said. "We have a team of agents ready to go through out the state."

These are the same agents who check in on bars routinely. But now, they will be also making sure bar owners are taking social distancing seriously.

“We certainly over the next few weeks if bars are respecting the guidelines and if not, we will see some violations," Hardin said.

RELATED: Florida suspends drinking at bars as COVID-19 cases continue to spike statewide

The ABC Board is also encouraging people to report bars that are not following guidelines at 501-682-8174 or ABCEnforcement@dfa.arkansas.gov.