SEARCY RESTURANT FIRST TO SEEK PRIVATE CLUB LICENSE IN WHITE COUNTY - ABC SPOKESMAN PROVIDES MISLEADING INFORMATION
ROCK HOUSE AMERICAN RESTAURANT - SEARCY, AR
Requests from her customers have led a Searcy restaurant owner to apply to the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division for a private club permit to allow the restaurant to serve alcoholic beverages.
"Most of our customers want it. They've been asking for it for years," said Amanda Elston, owner of the Rock House American Restaurant. "Our food is complemented by beer and wine. You know, they don't want to have to drive an hour."
Currently, no restaurants in White County have a private club permit.
According to Milton Lueken, an attorney with the ABC board, applicants in a dry county can apply for a private club permit, but in order to do so, they must first be registered as a non-profit corporation with the Arkansas Secretary of State's Office for an entire calendar year and have a minimum of 100 members at the time of application.
|ABC ATTORNEY MILTON LUEKEN|
Arkansas law defines a private club as "a non-profit corporation organized and existing under the laws of the state of Arkansas, no part of the net revenues of which shall inure directly or indirectly to the benefit of any of its members or any other individual, except for the payment of bona fide expenses of the club's operation”.
"That's the way the Legislature set it up back in 1969," Lueken said. "I don't why that's the way they did it, but that's the way they did it."
The majority of applicants for private club permits in Arkansas are restaurants in dry areas, according to Lueken, including places like the Jonesboro and Faulkner County.
"The non-profit corporation has to have a purpose for filing this application other than just the consumption of alcohol," he said. "The Legislature passed some stuff several years ago that allows basically for entertainment, food, things of that nature, so a lot of these clubs are now applying. Their purpose is restaurants, which the Arkansas Court of Appeals has ruled is a proper non-profit purpose to have a private club. There's community hospitality serves a purpose, food and entertainment, athletic associations, American Legions, things of that nature."
Elston, who filed her application April 25, said that registration for a non-profit corporation has been in place for a year and she has more than the minimum number of signatures for the application.
"Over 130 in 2 1/2 days. I have people saying, 'Hey, do you need more signatures? Did you get all of them?' They've been doing that for about three days now," she said Thursday.
According to Lueken, once the application has been reviewed, public officials are notified that an application for a private club permit has been filed.
"We send it to the mayor, to the chief of police, to the prosecuting attorney, the sheriff. The reason we do that is we want to give them the opportunity to weigh in on whether they think this is a good idea or a bad idea," he said. "And our agent will come up there and he will look at the place and if there's any residences close by, he will try to contact them, because neighbors sometimes get concerned when it's alcohol involved."
Location is also a factor in the application, according to Lueken.
"Are their neighbors close by? Are there other businesses close by? Are there churches near by? Are there any schools close by? Will the school object? Will the church object? Will the neighbors object? Will the public officials object? We never know. We never know who might object or who might not," Lueken said.
The application then goes before ABC Director Bud Roberts.
"He makes the first decision," Lueken said. "He will probably turn it down if we get a lot of opposition. And, obviously, if we get no opposition, he'll more then likely grant it."