Arkansas' Alcohol Beverage Control Commission approved 53 permits for Benton County businesses to sell alcohol, the first legal approval businesses have received since the county turned wet.
The commission approved the permits at its regular meeting Wednesday morning in Little Rock. Businesses may begin selling alcohol as soon as 7 a.m. Thursday, as long as they have their permit in-hand, according to ABC.
Those who applied for permits include such businesses as Walmart, Casey's General Store and Kum & Go, among many others.
The first Benton County business to receive a beer and wine permit was Finnegan's Country Markets in Rogers. Owner Gary Finnegan said customer interest has been high during the permit-seeking process and he's made changes in his store to offer it.
“Putting a refrigerator case over here, a refrigerator case over there and dedicating a spot over here for warm product,” said Finnegan.
He said he ordered $5,000 worth of refrigeration equipment.
Finnegan expects to double his business.
“In the summertime, we were getting 10 to 15 inquiries a day from folks from somewhere else that visiting here that wants to be able to buy alcohol," he said. "This time of year 20 percent from what I was doing this time a year ago and in the summer, it will be 50 to 40 percent.”
Residents voted in November to allow retail alcohol sales in the county.
The permits approved Wednesday include convenience and grocery stores, for which there is no limit on number of permits.
Residents in the county said they're going to save money by not having to drive to neighboring wet counties.
“We go to Missouri or to Springdale and if yo'`re just going for a six-pack, it isn't worth it,” said Bill Cochran, Benton County resident.
Each county may only received a set number of permits for liquor stores. The ABC has not yet begun accepting applications for liquor stores.
Most Benton County businesses waited until Thursday to begin stocking their shelves with alcohol, although at least Kum & Go stores stocked shelves Wednesday in preparation for Thursday sales.
"It cuts off about 35 miles to go to a liquor store, and I only go once a month," said Ron Crawford, a Benton County resident.