Judge Denies Intervention Again in Barling Liquor Case

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A Sebastian County Circuit Court judge has once again denied attempts to intervene on his ruling to void the results of an election allowing alcohol sales in the city of Barling.

After voters approved the measure in November, a group of residents filed a complaint asking a judge to void the election results. In January, Circuit Court Judge Steve Tabor granted the group's wish when he determined the vote violated the Alcoholic Control Act of 1935.

Both the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority (FCRA) and the city of Barling have attempted to intervene in the case, but their requests have been denied by the judge.

Ivy Owen, Executive Director of the FCRA, says his organization will continue to challenge the law preventing alcohol sales in Barling.

"There's a couple ways to do it," says Owen. "The courts can declare (the 1935 law) unconstitutional, or the state legislature can champion a bill that will change that law, and we’re looking at both of those options.”

Owen has been in talks with a developer who is "extremely interested" in building a shopping mall with 70 stores at the intersection of Highways 59 and 22. He says the mall will create 700 jobs for the area.

"It means jobs for the city of Barling, jobs for the region, sales tax revenue, real estate tax revenue," said Owen. "I mean, it’s just a no brainer.”

However, the developer will only move forward with the shopping mall plans if they are able to sell alcohol at some of their establishments, according to Owen. If that is not a possibility, the plans will be scaled back.

“It determines whether or not they’re going to build a 70 store mall or a 6 store strip center,” said Owen.

Not everyone in the Barling community shares Owen's stance on alcohol sales in town.

Reverend Jay Edmonson with the First Baptist Church in Barling says he'd like to see growth in Barling, but allowing alcohol sales is not the answer.

“I would love to see more businesses here," said Edmonson. "I would love to see more restaurants and everything else here, but the growth needs to be in a way that enhances our community and helps the families that are currently living here and helps them to be better.”

Edmonson says Barling is a "small bedroom community" with a lot of families and children. He worries how alcohol sales would impact the children in town.

"We don't need the negative influence on our families," said Edmonson.

Logistically, Edmonson wonders where they would put the establishments serving and selling alcohol.

“One of the requirements is it can’t be within a thousand feet of a church or a school," said Edmonson. "We only have two big streets in Barling, and they’re filled with both.”