GENTRY -- Jerah Jech believes Sunday alcohol sales will benefit her business, the city and residents on the west side of Benton County.
Charles and Jerah Jech opened C&J Liquors at 129 Fowler St. in November 2013. It is the only liquor store in this small town.
A special election Feb. 9 will determine the sale of alcohol on Sunday within the city. Hours would be from 10 a.m. to midnight for off-premises consumption. Under a 2009 state law, municipalities can call citywide elections to decide whether off-premises alcohol sales can be permitted on Sundays.
Early voting starts Tuesday.
There are 1,965 registered voters in Gentry, according to the County Clerk's Office.
Gentry would be the only city on the west side of the county to offer Sunday alcohol sales, Jerah Jech said. Her business sits just off Arkansas 59.
"We get them from all over -- Oklahoma, Siloam Springs, Gravette, Decatur, Highfill, Maysville," Jech said of her customer base. "We're kinda right here. Everyone is going one way or the other."
It has taken a while to get to this voting opportunity. The City Council voted Sept. 8 to add the ballot initiative to the Nov. 3 general election following a petition drive by the Jechs. The signatures of at least 15% of the electors within the city who voted for governor in the last general election had to be obtained to place the question on a ballot.
The measure was submitted too late for the Nov. 3 ballot and was eventually scheduled for Feb. 9. Mayor Kevin Johnston said two convenience stores, a Dollar General and Harps also sell alcohol in the city.
When a community votes to allow Sunday sales, it applies to retail liquor stores and beer and wine permits at convenience stores and grocery stores, said Scott Hardin with the Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration.
Sixteen communities across the state have voted to allow Sunday off-premises sales, Hardin said. Springdale and Tontitown are the only two in Washington County.
Gentry's city sales tax is 2%, according to the Finance Department. It brought in $124,524 in December, according to the Arkansas Municipal League.
Sunday could become one of the store's busiest days if the issue passes and once the word filters to the community, Jech said.
The election will cost Gentry about $10,000, said Kim Dennison, county elections coordinator. If passed, Gentry would join a small group of Benton County cities whose residents have approved Sunday alcohol sales. Residents voted to make Benton County "wet" in November 2012.
Avoca voted 34 for (71%) to 14 against (29%) in July 2017. Garfield voted 187 for (66%) to 98 against (34%), and Pea Ridge voted 1,868 for (66%) to 946 against (34%) in the Nov. 3 general election, according to the Benton County Election Commission.
Sales of alcohol on Sundays began Dec. 13 in Garfield and Pea Ridge.
Avoca has three places that sell alcohol including Two Sisterz Liquor, said Nanette Barnes, city recorder/treasurer. Two Sisterz is owned by sisters Stephanie Zortman and Stacey Latham, who pushed the petition for Sunday alcohol sales in that town. Sunday sales have worked out well, Zortman said.
"It brings some tax revenue to this little town. We have an upbeat tempo that customers enjoy, and they don't have to go to Missouri," she said.
It can be very busy depending on who is playing on an NFL football Sunday, she said.
Garfield Mayor Gary Blackburn said the town has three places that sell alcohol.
The Pea Ridge election negated a ban approved by city officials in 1940. The City Council approved an ordinance Dec. 29 to amend the city's municipal code to allow the sales. Pea Ridge Mayor Jackie Crabtree said five businesses sell alcohol on Sunday.
"What it does do is keep folks here in town by not going to other areas on Sunday to purchase this type of product, so they will more than likely spend their money here instead of other locations," Crabtree said.
What is offsite consumption?
Alcohol is bought at a business but is consumed at another location. Liquor stores, convenience stores and grocery stores are examples. A liquor store operates under a retail liquor permit, while convenience and grocery stores typically hold a permit for beer or beer and wine.
Restaurants, bars and clubs hold permits for onsite consumption. There are approximately 3,000 of those permits across the state.
Source: Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration