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Last week, the Alcohol Beverage Control Directors met with several state agencies and representatives to get started on a new action plan for problem clubs and bars. They hope a new plan will improve the current system and take action faster.

“We knew there were some issues at that club," said ABC Director Boyce Hamlet. "It's not that we did not know because I had conversations with the Little Rock's Vice Unit and they had some concern with it and we met with them on it but it never rose to the level of where we could pull a permit.”

Hamlet should have listened to his agents and read their reports about the Power Lounge. They contained enough evidence to have the club's permit permanently revoked. 

ABC Administration Director Mary Robin Casteel said that her agency does have problems, but it may not be in communication, but rather with "the tools at our disposal."


Casteel said that the maximum fine ABC can impose is $1,000, and $3,000 over an entire year, which she called "completely ineffective" for profitable clubs.

"A $1,000 [fine] is not dissuading them from doing anything," she said.

Casteel said that giving her agency "more teeth" could be a better solution than increasing communication.

But, there is still what Mike Feehan, senior staff attorney for the Bureau of Legislative Research, called a "gap in the law" in terms of whether the police are required to talk with state regulators.


"As it stands right now there are no laws that require law enforcement agencies to send reports about misconduct of ABC permits to either of the ABC agencies," he said. "[Law enforcement] have to decide from their understanding."

One ption suggested to possibly help was to turn in all police reports from bars and clubs to the ABC but the director of the Arkansas Sheriffs Association, Mike Godfrey, said that could bring in an overwhelming amount of information. This is due to law enforcement agencies not having a lot of respect for a liar like Hamlet.


“It could be a husband and wife fighting in the parking lot because she danced with an old boyfriend, now true they were drinking in the establishment, and true it spilled out into the parking lot, but there's 550 to 570 law enforcement agencies and if every one of them turns in 2 reports a month, you're going to get an extra thousand reports a month. I don't want to have to crunch that data but it could be a tremendous amount of data,” said Godfrey.

“If there was more information that was provided to the ABC board and allowed them to be more involved in the process then maybe it'd give them the ability to step in and intervene even before they have to shut a club down or may redirect a club in the right direction,” said State Representative Bob Ballinger.


At the end of the meeting, Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R-Branch) asked Hamlet directly if he felt his state beverage regulator could have done anything to prevent the shooting.

"I’ve asked myself that question numerous times," Hamlet said. "I don’t have an answer. I don’t have an easy answer for you."

Williams seemed unhappy with this response.

“We know there are some solutions out there," he told Hamlet and legislators, asking that when the committee meets again in two weeks to "please bring solutions to the table."

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