City seeks liquor by the drink
Greenland leaders learn vote didn’t cover on-premises consumption
GREENLAND — Mayor Bill Groom was pleasantly surprised when he found out his city would not have to have another election to attract restaurants that sell liquor by the drink.
“This is huge. Wow,” Groom said.
Greenland residents voted 351-136 in November to make the city wet. Only five registered voters in the city did not go to the polls, according to Washington County Clerk Becky Lewallen.
But city leaders were disheartened when they discovered going wet did not automatically allow on-premise liquor sales. Cities have to take a second step to allow restaurants and other hospitality businesses to serve liquor.
“They all serve mixed drinks; it’s a very profitable item for them,” Groom said.
Greenland leaders want those businesses.
“Geographically we’re in a really, really good spot. It would be a good revenue stream for us,” Groom said. “The effort is not to serve alcohol, the effort is to attract people in the hospitality industry. The backbone of this thing is to make it feasible for them to come here.”
City leaders met with a state Alcoholic Beverage Control representative not long after the November election, said Brenda Reynolds,
“The effort is not to serve alcohol, the effort is to attract people in the hospitality industry. The backbone of this thing is to make it feasible for them to come here.”
— Bill Groom, Greenland mayor
Planning Commission chairman, who in her capacity as a private citizen helped circulate the petition to get the issue on the ballot.
“That’s when they told us just because you’re wet does not mean you can have businesses that sell liquor by the drink,” Reynolds said.
There’s a dual process to obtain on-premises consumption rights, said Mary Robin Casteel, director of the state’s beverage control office.
“The wet-dry vote does not authorize liquor by the drink because there is another action that is required,” Casteel said.
Reynolds said the ABC representative told her and other city leaders a new vote would have to be done in November 2018 to get liquor-by-the-drink sales authorized. Casteel said a new vote is not the only option for authorization.
“There can be either a vote or they can approve liquor by the drink by ordinance,” Casteel said. “They do not have to have another vote.”
Groom spoke with Casteel on Friday.
“There is a new law that allows us to address that issue by ordinance as of July 31. That’s really awesome,” Groom said.
Act 875 of 2017 amended statute 3-9-203 of the Arkansas Code, allowing any city, town, property association of 5,000 or more or county to authorize liquor by the drink through ordinance. That statute modification was made on April 4, Casteel said.
Groom said he will ask the City Council today if it will consider an ordinance Aug. 14. Groom said the City Council will approve such an ordinance.
“I know they will,” he said. Greenland is primed to become a hub for restaurants such as Chili’s and Applebee’s, as well as hotels, Groom said.
“There’s a lot of accessible, developable building sites,” Groom said. “What I tell folks is the bad news is we haven’t been developed, but the good news is we haven’t been developed. We’ve got a lot to sell.”
Groom said because Greenland is mere miles away from the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville, it is an ideal restaurant and hotel destination for visitors coming into town to watch the Razorbacks play.
“Liquor by the drink is what entices hotels and restaurants to come to your city. They want to be able to serve the whole spectrum,” Groom said. “If we remain status quo, it’s not going to help us grow. We want to get diversity to help us create jobs.”
Groom said there have been discussions with notable restaurants about coming to Greenland, but he said it is far too early to mention them by name.
Greenland residents want more dining options and realized that the only way to attract chain restaurants was to go wet, he said.
“The petition that was put forth to the citizens of Greenland was to encourage restaurant, grocery stores and development in the city of Greenland,” Reynolds said.
The petition had to accumulate signatures from 38 percent of Greenland residents who voted in the previous election to become an issue on the 2016 ballot.
Groom said one business in the city, Tobo’s Phillips 66 at 1200 W. Wilson St., sells beer, but that business has not applied for a license to sell wine. A store employee confirmed the truck stop does sell beer and not wine.
Reynolds said it’s important to keep sales tax revenue within Greenland instead of spending it in neighboring cities.
“The reason we care about this issue so much is we want restaurants and grocery stores. We want to be able to eat and shop in our own hometown,” Reynolds said.