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Quorum Court Narrowly Approves Rules For Private Club Applications

by Janice Penix

Justices of the peace voted 6-5 at their monthly meeting Thursday, Sept. 21, to approve rules and procedures for private club applications in the county.

An ordinance was adopted outlining the process in which a private club can be operated and obtain a license to sell alcoholic beverages in unincorporated areas of the county. Justices of the peace voting in favor of the ordinance were Van Hill, Mike Estes, John Payne, Kris Muldoon, Katie Howard and Bryan Cooper, while Mike Jacobs, Paula Ober, Bethany Bean, Larry Jones, and Jeremy Hatchett voted against it.

State law requires a private club permit application be made first to the governing body or municipality in which the private club will be located, and if the governing body of the county approves the application by ordinance, then the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (ABC) can issue a permit.

Mike Mosley, attorney for the county, told the Court it was his recommendation that the county have standards in place that can be applied to each applicant equally.

“You should always treat alike things alike,” Mosley said. “It would be unwise not to have a general ordinance as a base that sets forth criteria for any entity. Arguably, you could do it on a case-by-case basis with an ordinance for each applicant. I am told that ABC will accept that. But my advice is you need this (ordinance establishing rules and procedures) first.”

Mosley cautioned the Court that determining each applicant on a case-by-case basis without set criteria in place would possibly make the county vulnerable to lawsuits.

“When you start legislating on a discrete basis, you open yourself up to equal protection issues,” he said. “To me, it seems much more wise to have one measuring stick. You can never govern on the basis of who you like or don’t like. Those would be really bad reasons for not granting an application. This is a way to protect you because it’s a standardized way to deal with each applicant and, in that regard, it serves as protection for you.”

For full story see the Sept. 27 edition of The Graphic.

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