The Bentonville City Council voted Tuesday night to relax liquor laws in an effort to financially help local restaurants and attract new businesses.
Aldermen voted unanimously in favor of an ordinance allowing on-premise alcohol consumption at local businesses, a measure that will open the area up to bars and free restaurants from having to purchase private club permits to serve alcohol.
"It just makes common sense that they would have the same advantage as those establishments in Washington County or Pulaski County or in our case neighboring cities," said Mayor Bob McCaslin.
The Italian American Restaurant Tavola Trattoria is one Bentonville business with a private club permit, which allows them to sell liquor by the drink. They currently buy their liquor from retail stores.
"It takes a bit of time out of our day when we could be doing other things," said Kelli Pinnock, general manager. "It puts wear and tear on our vehicles."
However, the Bentonville city council's vote changes that, allowing businesses to serve customers alcohol without a special permit.
"It will be a positive impact economically on Tavola," Pinnock said.
Pinnock said saving money in their liquor purchase could mean cheaper prices for customers.
"We will no longer haul our product which will be nice and it will allow us to even out our pricing on our menu," Pinnock said.
Selling retail alcohol has been legal in Benton County since residents voted to turn the county wet last November, but cities had to pass their own ordinances to allow on-premise alcohol consumption at businesses.
The new ordinance will allow area restaurants to save money that would have been spent on required private club permits. Business owners will also now be able to purchase alcohol from wholesale distributors, rather than from retail outlets. These measures will save restaurants money and possibly attract new businesses to the area, city attorney George Spence wrote to council members in a city memo.
Allowing establishments to serve alcohol without private club permits, though, comes at a cost for the city. Bentonville will miss out on about $165,000 per year that is collected by the city from such establishments. Spence suggested the city incur the cost rather than levy a separate tax to make up the losses.
Rogers city leaders passed a similar measure earlier this year shortly after the Arkansas Music Pavilion was announced as moving from Fayetteville to Rogers. The Bentonville memo specifically mentions Rogers’ pull on alcohol-friendly businesses as a reason to pass Tuesday night’s ordinance.