Friday, January 02, 2015

EDITORIAL >> Liquor petitions

Jacksonville has gathered about 4,000 signatures and needs only 400 more to do away with its outdated liquor laws and annually inject about $600,000 into the city’s economy once restaurants start selling alcohol and grocery and convenience stores can stock beer and wine on their shelves.

Surprisingly, about 2,700 signatures are still needed in Sherwood, where a whopping $10 million could be added to the city’s economy every year.

Tax revenues would be substantial as sales at businesses increase in those communities. Till then, many residents in dry areas will continue to drive to North Little Rock to dine at the numerous name-brand restaurants along Hwy. 67/167.

Organizers had hoped Arkansas voters would overturn the state’s strict liquor laws in November, but they overwhelmingly rejected the initiative, although Jacksonville voted for the measure and Shewood narrowly defeated the statewide proposal.

Supporters of expanding liquor sales in Pulaski County point out that the change will not mean more liquor stores in the area because the county permits are already taken — one liquor store per 5,000 people. But liquor stores that have been banished to the city limits could move to downtown Jacksonville, for example, so long as they comply with local zoning regulations.

The Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, which has been leading the drive, hopes to attract some corporate restaurant chains to town as well as expand sales opportunities for restaurants already here. Tax-starved city officials are also seeing dollar signs at a time when revenue sources are drying up as online retailers are siphoning off sales tax.

Sherwood is hoping to expand the already-saturated restaurant row on Hwy. 67/167 with a few big names to Hwy. 107 in Gravel Ridge, where a Harps grocery store is set to open later this year and could sell beer and wine.

The change will remake the area’s culture somewhat, but as The Leader has pointed out, DUI rates are lower in Missouri, Louisiana and other places that have looser liquor laws.

Local residents can sign petitions at the Jacksonville and Sherwood chamber offices and help their communities modernize and create jobs.