BERRYVILLE -- The Arkansas Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control is considering whether to allow the Wal Mart Supercenter in Berryville to sell beer and wine.
ABC Director Michael Langley said he planned to announce his decision at the ABC Board of Director's first meeting of 2013, on the third Wednesday in January. The board will then decide whether to accept or reject his recommendation.
ABC regulations set forth a number of factors which agency officials are to consider in making a decision. These include the number and type of existing permits in the area, the potential impact of alcohol sales on churches or schools in the area, and input from law enforcement and other public officials.
Public feedback is also considered. The regulations require all petitions to be submitted on 8.5-by-11-inch paper and to contain original signatures only. Photocopies are not accepted.
Also, the petitions must refer to the specific application -- in this case, "Permit No. 04687," and must be delivered by hand or post. Email and fax submissions will not be accepted.
Langley said more specific objections would be given greater weight in the decision making process.
"You're more than welcome to submit a petition," he said, "but the number of signatures is not as important as what they say."
Langley said those who were displeased with the agency's decision would still have the opportunity to appeal. If this were done, he said, the ABC board would conduct a public hearing to resolve the dispute.
Such a hearing could delay a final decision until February or March, Langley said.
Barbara Wood, of Berryville, was one of five people to have written to the ABC by Monday. She -- and the other four -- objected to the application.
"The safety, social, and health issues associated with alcoholic consumption would not improve the social or health conditions of people residing in this small town," Wood wrote.
Doyle Blankenship, also of Berryville, joined Wood in protest.
"We do not want our young people exposed to this," Blankenship wrote.
On the other hand, Berryville officials have so far voiced no objection.
Carroll County Sheriff Bob Grudek and Lt. Randy Haven of the Berryville Police Department both told the ABC they were not opposed to the alcohol sales.
As of Monday, Mayor Tim McKinney and Carroll County Prosecuting Attorney Rogers had not responded to the agency's requests for comment. Rogers could not be reached for comment Monday afternoon.
However, McKinney -- reached by phone -- said he would not object. This is a change of policy for the city.
Officials had objected to several similar permits submitted by smaller retailers earlier in the year. However, the ABC overruled them and approved the permits.
Before this year, the mayor said, the only stores in Berryville with off-premise alcohol sales permits -- that is, grab-and-go establishments -- had been two liquor liquor stores on the eastern fringe of town.
That number now stands at six. County wide, such permits have been granted to 25 business -- the vast majority west of the King's River.
[Editor's Note: To view a complete list of existing alcohol permits in Carroll County, visit http://bit.ly/ThhLoY.]
Since those earlier four permits had been granted, McKinney said, city officials felt the decision of whether to sell alcohol should be left to individual proprietors.
"We would like to have kept it all in the liquor stores," he said, "but if one store is going to sell it, we need to be fair to the others."
Wal Mart did not respond to requests for comment by deadline.
Editor's Note: To view the application submitted by Wal Mart -- along with public comments already submitted about the application, visit http://bit.ly/10KhrF3.