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Fayetteville group petitions to put Sunday alcohol sales up for vote

Nearly since its founding, Arkansas has prohibited alcohol sales on Sunday, but relatively new legislation allows some cities to decide if they want to opt out of this particular “blue law.”

Scott Hardin is the spokesperson for the Arkansas Alcohol and Beverage Commission and said the Sunday sales prohibition is slowly phasing out.

"Up until not too long ago, it was really impossible to purchase alcohol for offsite consumption on a Sunday,” Hardin said. “That changed in 2009. The Arkansas legislature passed Act 294 in 2009. And it said if a group can gather signatures of 15 percent of voters who voted in the most recent election for Governor then they can place it on the local ballot."

He said that a vote to do away with Sunday sales has been introduced and passed in 22 cities in the state so far.

And now a group is trying to put the measure on the ballot for Fayetteville residents. The group Keep Our Dollars in Fayetteville, which is backed by Walmart and headed by state representative Denise Garner (D-Fayetteville), filed a petition on March 2for a ballot committee question or BQC, according to the Arkansas Ethics Commission website.

Hardin said he believed it was only a matter of time before Fayetteville took up the issue.

"The bottom line is it's tax revenue,” Hardin said. “If cities in Northwest Arkansas are not pursuing then they're losing to a nearby city, so it helps it helps not only with just tax but with local tourism.”

According to the department of finance and administration Arkansas generated $76.6 million in alcohol sales tax for the 2023 fiscal year. And while any city in the state’s 44 wet counties can take up the measure, Hardin said, only a certain few have.

"It's north western Arkansas and north central Arkansas and outside of that there is only one city Arkansas city in southern Arkansas that has done this,” he said. “I think the rest of the state has to take notice. The thresholds for the signatures is obtainable. It's 15 percent. You know… right now for if a dry county wants to go wet, they have to obtain signatures of 38 percent of voters, so we have never seen an election in which this doesn't pass once it gets on the ballot."

According to a statement from Keep Our Dollars in Fayetteville, the group will begin collecting signatures on April 1. They have until July 1st to submit 4,182 verified signatures to the Washington County Quorum Court to get the measure on the ballot by November.

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Daniel Caruth is KUAF's Morning Edition host and reporter for Ozarks at Large<i>.</i>
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