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Boone County, AR retailer caught in liquor license controversy

Store owner claims political wrangling is preventing him from selling alcohol

April 21, 2011|by Mike Landis, KY3 News | mlandis@ky3.com

BATAVIA, Ar. - When Boone County voters gave a thumbs-up to going wet, Tim Block was looking forward to offering up something new at his store.

"The way I was going to implement it was just put in a few stacks of warm beer, and maybe two or three cooler doors of cold beer," Black explained.

The November vote led to the legalization of alcohol sales in the county for the first time in nearly 70 days.  

The debate over the issue was hot in the months leading up to election day.  However, Black said after the vote, there was little controversy about him selling booze at his store, Batavia Express.

"The majority of, I would say as much as 92 percent, maybe of the people I talked to wanted it.  They are going to purchase it anyway, and they would like for it to be here.

So, Tim went to work to start selling beer, and he sent off for his license.

"The financing [is the] hardest part. We have spent thousands of dollars, many hours," said Block.

His store more than met the county law that beer-selling stores be 350-feet away from schools and churches.

But mid-game, county leaders decided to change the rules for all establishments...

"We decided to make it 1,000 feet in place of the 350," said James Widner, a Boone County Justice of he Peace.

Tim Black says the change meant his store would be disqualified by 150 feet.

The Arkansas Beverage Control board said it has no spacing limits on stores that sell just beer.  However, counties, like Boone, have the freedom to set their own rules.

"Even though the voters have decided to make the county wet, we shouldn't flaunt it in the face of the ones who opposed it," said Justice Widner.  "I know there's quite a bit of expense and trouble involved with getting the license. But that's one of the chances you take with any business, anything you start to sell," he added.

"They are not happy that it went wet. And they are trying every effort they can come up with to prevent it from becoming any more than it is," protested Block.

Tim is still waiting for his license in the mail, though he knows it may be just a piece of paper with no value.

"We could still get the state permit, but after spending all that money and time and effort, financing and planning, it would not do us any good because it would still be illegal to sell it," explained Block.

"I know there's quite a bit of expenses and trouble involved with getting the license. But that's one of the chances you take with any business, anything you start to sell."

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