The Camden City Council heard impassioned pleas from restaurant owners hoping to ease restrictions on purchasing alcohol at Tuesday night's regular meeting.
Ordinance No. 06-22, an ordinance setting forth certain regulations for the sale of alcohol for on premises consumption; and for other purposes passed unanimously.
This ordinance allows establishments within city limits to acquire a mixed drink permit instead of a private club permit, which will authorize the establishments to purchase alcohol on the wholesale level.
A Private Club Permit authorizes the purchase of any controlled beverages from persons holding an off premises retail liquor or beer permit who have been designated by the Director as a private club distributor and the dispensing of such beverages for consumption on the premises of the private club to members and guests only of the private club.
Application for an annual permit from the state also requires an annual permit fee of $1,500. An application for a bed-and-breakfast private club permit is less expensive, at $75. Private-club permit applications for dry counties, which can be contentious and time-consuming, require an additional fee of $1,500.
"I just really became aware of it January from the ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Commission) agent that is over this area of the state. She asked me why we weren't serving mixed drinks and I explained to her that the process it too long, and I'm too old and it's too costly, but she said all that has changed, and apparently several years back," said Allen Dawson, owner of Allen's Restaurant. "Now all that has to happen is that for your local city council to approve an ordinance whereby all restaurants in the the city limits can apply to not only serve beer and wine, but also mixed drinks."
Dawson stated that El Dorado, Arkadelphia and Magnolia had already passed similar ordinances.
Emily Jordan-Roberston, proprieter of PostMaster's Grill talked about the inadequecies of the current "private club" license.
"Ultimately it takes about a year, because you have to have nonprofit established to have a private club, and that has to be established about a year before you do that application process, which is a pretty lengthy process," she said.
"Ultimately what this does for us, is that is streamlines it and makes it a little easier process if someone wants to sell something other than beer and wine. It also lowers the permit cost; they have kind of a sliding scale permit cost based on the number of seats in your establishment," she continued. "It also makes it where we can buy wholesale. Right now if you buy a liqour drink at my place, I bought it at the liqour store, I paid mark up and sales tax on that before it ever got to you."