State agency rejects adult entertainment venue in Prairie Creek area

Posted: November 9, 2017 at 1:07 a.m.

BENTONVILLE -- The state denied an application to allow "cabaret dancing" at a restaurant on Arkansas 12 in the Prairie Creek area east of Rogers after opposition from residents and Benton County officials.

A request to amend the state-issued permit for Tony C's Italian Gardens Ristorante was sent to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board on Oct. 20. The request asked the permit for the business, identified as a private club, be changed to add cabaret dancing and to change the name to "Hots NWA."

County ordinance

Benton County regulates land use throughplanning regulations, adopted as an ordinance by the Quorum Court. The regulations prohibit adult-oriented businesses from being within 1,000 feet of a child care facility, park, place of worship, playground, public library, recreational area or facility, residence, school or walking trail.

Source: Benton County

Mary Robin Casteel, director, said the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board sent notice of the denial to Anthony Catroppa, the holder of the permit, on Wednesday.

"He can appeal that to the ABC board if he desires. That's where we are now," Casteel said.

Catroppa didn't respond to a message left on his cellphone Wednesday morning. Paul Reynolds of Fayetteville, Catroppa's attorney, said Wednesday afternoon he hadn't received notice of the board's decision and had no other comment on the application or a possible appeal. Reynolds said Catroppa didn't wish to be contacted about the request.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Board notified the Benton County Sheriff's Office and prosecuting attorney of the request on Oct. 25 asking for their response. Both offices opposed the request, as did Benton County Judge Barry Moehring.

"We responded the day we got the letter," Chief Deputy Meyer Gilbert said of the Sheriff's Office reaction. "We're opposed to it."

Prosecutor Nathan Smith also sent the board his response.

"After speaking with you, my understanding is that this application would essentially authorize stripping in this establishment," Smith wrote to the board. "The term 'cabaret dancing' is a bit ambiguous in this context, so if I am mistaken in reading it this way, please let me know. As it stands, I am opposed to authorizing stripping in this or any other establishment due to the crime that activity attracts."

Moehring said his office isn't officially involved in the permit process, but, after hearing from a number of residents, he also sent the state agency a letter in opposition. Moehring said the changes would violate the county's planning regulations because of the restaurant's proximity to residential areas. County records show 101 residences within 1,000 feet of the property.

"Beyond that, the proposed use of the property for an adult-oriented establishment is inconsistent with the character of this area of the county," Moehring wrote. "Beaver Lake is a high traffic, family oriented vacation and weekend destination. An adult cabaret situated on the main arterial road to the lake would have a detrimental impact on the positive perception of the Beaver Lake area."

Moehring said if the nature of the business changed, the owner would have to apply to the county Planning Department and go through the standard application process, including a public hearing before the Planning Board.

Residents also voiced their concerns to the board, local officials and their state legislators.

Marci Denver, who said her home is near the restaurant, possibly within the 1,000 foot restricted area, said she was concerned the proposed changes to the business would adversely impact her home and the region.

"I just don't get it," she said. "I love that we live along the scenic highway to Beaver Lake and all the other great locations -- the Buffalo River, Eureka Springs, Hobbs State Park. That type of business just doesn't fit at all."

Cathleen Faircloth, another area resident, said the denial of the request was good news.

"It's a relief for me and the whole community," she said. "It was definitely a community effort on social media and through emails to reach out to our local officials and the state. It was a whole community that rallied around this."

NW News on 11/09/2017