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Recent decisions by the ABC Control Board in approving/denying private club permits in Searcy clearly shows how wishy-washy and inconsistent they are.

You can read about the mess in Searcy by clicking here and here

A glaring example of their arbitrary and capricious decisions is the matter of the beer and wine permit applications made by the Ozark Arts Council in Harrison.

The Ozarks Arts Council uses the historic Lyric Theater to promote the arts in Harrison and North Arkansas through exhibitions, performances, and education.

They had obtained temporary permits to sell and serve alcoholic beverages for special events, but wanted to obtain beer and wine permits to promete  public convenience and advantage. It would also increase the possibility that groups would provide economic stimulation to the area by using the facilities for events by having beer and wine available. 

The applicant for the Ozarks Arts Council was a local minister, and he certainly possessed the "good moral character" ABC rules and Regulations require of applicants.


Bud Roberts, the ABC Administration Director at that time denied the applications.

  Dan Sherrell, the Mayor of Harrison,  voiced no objections.

 As did a former Mayor Jeff Crockett.

The Executive Director of the Harrison Convention and Visitors Bureau, Matt Bell also voice his support.

Several others sent in personal hand written letter or emails in support.

Opponents used that same letter, apparently printed out and signed by individuals, most did not list an address.  Sketchy and not very impressive. A petition would have served better in this instance.


The denial of the permits was appealed to the ABC Board.

This is what the applicant wrote about his experience before the board.

"When I appeared before the ABC Board earlier this year to appeal the Director’s refusal of an annual permit to the Ozark Arts Council—a refusal based on 40-some photocopies of a letter written by a local pastor who says that Boone County isn’t really wet, but someone tampered with the voting machines—the Director suggested that we install surveillance cameras in our theater as an effective means of preventing a parent from handing his kid a beer during a concert or play. When the Board asked how we would GUARANTEE this could never happen, I was tripped up and answered honestly, “I suppose in exactly the same way that any restaurant with booths and subdued lighting does, which is by removing and reporting those who are caught in the act…but I know for a fact that such is *not* what happens in restaurants,” when, apparently, they wanted me to lie. They advised me to consult the Little Rock theaters that serve beer on how they prevent such things. Immediately after they voted to uphold the director’s denial (which meant that the ABC got to keep half of our $850 fee…meaning that we paid more to be denied because we are a not-for-profit than the for-profit businesses within a few doors of our theater pay for actually having annual permits), I *did* go to such a theater (I want to say “Riverside 8” or something like that), and they told me, of course, that no such surveillance cameras were in use. I honestly think Agent Coon was in shock that we were denied, because we have been the example of diligent compliance. Mr. Lueken was clearly irritated both during and after the appeal hearing and made the effort to point out that those speaking against us were largely relying on photocopies of the same letter (the fact that my name was on all the paperwork, etc., but misspelled in the letters was one obvious problem) while what we presented was all original compositions by the letter writers—some of whom I had to say got particular points wrong. Mr. Lueken specifically stated after the meeting that if he were allowed a vote, it would have been in favor of us; in fact, I have found him to be about the most refreshing thing in this whole experience because of his absolute and consistent candor, and I’m saddened by his retirement before our next application. It was sort of funny, though, him going off on the “nutty Christians” who opposed us, while I was standing there in my clerical collar, a Lutheran pastor of 28 years…but that’s the thing: he would say what he meant, no matter who, it might offend, etc., very different from most of the people I’ve dealt with in any level of government bureaucracy".


This is not the first time the ABC Board has tried to get a theater to have cameras in a dark room to monitor that underage individuals do not get a hold of alcoholic beverages. D0 they really think that these theaters are going to have someone sitting in a chair watching what is going on. Ridiculous.
And the nutty folks from Harrison want to have us believe that that is a peaceful friendly town. It is if you are in the KKK or some Alt Right religious group.
Anyone that has driven through there going to Branson or Lake of the Ozarks has seen those terrible signs and is keenly aware that that towns infamous history.  

There was no valid reason to turn down this groups permit applications. After all they obtained special permits all the time and never had and problems.

The ABC board needs to get their act together and be consistent in their reasoning and decisions.

Our next post about them will show you how they treated a black applicant and how they were against him just because of the name he chose to call his proposed establishment.

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