The sale of alcohol in Benton County has been put before voters for more than one hundred years.
“They actually voted every year from 1894 to 1914 on whether or not they wanted to be dry,” says Jennifer Sweet, Rogers Historical Museum.
In 1900 it was a hot issue, overshadowing local political races. By a small margin the people voted for a dry county, but a recount was demanded. It ended with the same result.
During that time saloons were on almost every corner.
This is a picture of the Commercial Saloon at the corner of Elm and first streets in Rogers around the turn of the 19th century.
According to an article in the 1900's, the county judge stood his ground on the issue saying, “There will be no saloons in Benton County while I am County Judge.”
By 1906, there were no saloons in the county, but that didn`t stop moonshiners.
“The bootleggers had to wear name tags so they didn`t try and sell to each other because there was so many of them,” says Sweet.
Times changed in 1933. Benton County became wet during the national movement to repeal prohibition. It wasn't long before voters hit the polls again.
“Because people who were against it being dry had complained that the 1944 vote wasn`t fair because, of all the soldiers being in World War 2 didn`t get a chance to vote, so they had a revote in 1947 and they actually voted to go dry by even a greater margin than they had in 1944,” explains Sweet.
The push for alcohol sales continues to this very day, but this go round requires multiple hurdles before the issue is put on the November ballot.
“We need 40,000 plus registered voters now on a petition for the issue to be called,” says Marshall Ney, Spokesperson for Keep Dollars in Benton County.
The group Keep Dollars in Benton County currently has 35,000. Ney says it's not just about people having access to alcohol.
“The real question is with this critical mass that we have here now should those tax dollars be here or should we continue to export them,” explains Ney.
Opponents argue that legalizing alcohol will bring a host of problems, including alcoholism and an increase in drunken driving accidents.
Keep dollars in Benton County is holding a day-long “Drive Up Sign Up” event on May 12 at locations throughout the County.
FastTrip/Conoco 307 Walton Blvd.
2401 SE 14th St.
Phillips 66/Conoco (The All In One) 2811 Bella Vista Way
Hibachi Grill Buffet 102 South 21st St.
Empty Lot across from Walmart and The Waffle House
Corner of Progress and Highway 412 East