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After more than 65 years of being dry, alcohol sales could boost revenues in Boone County AR

It was a heated issue on the ballot on Nov. 2.

November 03, 2010|by Jay Scherder, KY3 News | jscherder@ky3.com

HARRISON, Ark. -- Boone County is going wet for the first time in nearly seven decades. Supporters of the Let's Get Wet campaign are now planning for ways to make the county's vote on Tuesday in favor of sales of packaged liquor and liquor-by-the drink provide the maximum possible economic benefit.   They forsee bringing more tourists to Harrison, keeping them in town longer, and boosting revenues across the board.

"It was a fight there," said Let's Get Wet supporter Jeff Crockett, referring to the battle of the booze in Boone County this fall.  "There were opinions on both sides. They were pretty passionate on both sides."

"They had it on the ballot a couple of times that I know of in 1986 and 1992 where it failed," Crockett said.

"From a tourism perspective," said Terry Cook, executive director of the Harrsion Convention and Vistors Bureau, "it gives us another tool to be able to outreach to our visitors."

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The bottom line, Cook says, is tourists are often times not willing to stay if they don't have alcohol to sip on.

"Our corporate travelers stay in Branson because of the alcohol issue," said Cook. 

"(We want to) attract tourists and keep tourists in town and get them to come back," said Crockett.

It's not about bringing in bars and pool halls to Harrison; it's about letting places like Roma Italian Restaurant bring in more people in and boost revenue.  The restaraunt's owners signed a lease in August and expressed interest in wanting alcohol at their establishment.

There is a catch. Even though the measure passed with about 53 percent of the vote, the 47 percent who voted it down could have the last laugh.

"To go wet, you have to wet it by county in Arkansas," said Crockett. "To dry it up after it's wet, you can dry it up by precinct."

After four years, it's possible that each precinct in the county could decide to vote to go back to being dry.  It could be problematic if a business decides to make an investment only to have the rules change once again.

Supporters say they are trying to get the law changed at the state level so the precincts won't be able to overturn the vote. 

The city council will have to set regulations for the sale of alcohol in Harrison.  Supporters hope that will happen by January 1.

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