Leader Blues

Saturday, March 22, 2008

TOP STORY > >Restaurant will be first in Ward to sell liquor

By HEATHER HARTSELL
Leader staff writer

Fourteen months after his initial application was denied, Winthrop Ray Knight, owner of Dude’s Place in Ward, received his liquor permit for his new restaurant.

The Alcoholic Beverage Control Appeals Board granted the private club liquor license to Knight on Wednesday, after he went before the five-member board’s public hearing to appeal their Jan. 18, 2006 decision. He walked out two hours later with their approval.

“I’m relieved,” Knight said Thurs-day. “It’s been a lot of hard work these past three years.”

By law, only private clubs are allowed to serve alcohol in a dry area, hence the reason Knight applied for an ABC license.

Knight said the restaurant he plans to start building in the next two to three months is the only restaurant in Lonoke County to have a liquor license.

“I think the board saw it would be good for the community; the biggest reason, I think, was because of the growth in the area,” he said.

A family-oriented, relaxed-atmo sphere restaurant, Knight said it would not be your average restaurant, and he plans to visit restaurants out of state for design ideas.

“I think we’ll not only draw local residents, but also people from Beebe, Des Arc and Lonoke. We’ll have good food, not just alcohol,” Knight explained.

Although he’s still working out ideas for his new venture, Knight said he will own the restaurant and has sought a liquor license on his own.

“I want the community to know that this is not associated in any way with Knight’s (grocery store),” Knight said.

Both Lonoke County and Ward city officials were also present at the ABC hearing to voice their opinions regarding the alcohol license. The city has 30 days to appeal ABC’s decision.

“It was very apparent that some city officials had really misled the public,” Knight said, adding he understood the comments made by Ward Police Chief Charlie Martin and Sheriff Jim Roberson and their point of view.

Martin said he is concerned about the trouble that could come from people getting intoxicated, but also because of traffic congestion and the lack of police personnel.

“It’s located right there at a busy intersection, the four-way stop of Highways 38 and 319, and the traffic gets congested sometimes,” Martin said. “A problem I have is lack of personnel. I’ve got one person on patrol and if they get tied up with a call and have to transport someone to Lonoke (county jail), I’ve got no one on patrol and my city’s wide open,” Martin said.

According to Knight, the ABC board brought up an interesting point about the handful of country clubs in Lonoke County.

“They said any time a restaurant applies for a liquor license there’s protest, but when it’s a country club, there’s not any
protest,” Knight said.

“I think it’s a valid point that not everyone can or wants to join a country club, but just wants an alcohol-serving restaurant,” he said.

Ward aldermen unanimously agreed last December, and reaffirmed their opposition at the March city council meeting, that they did not approve of having a public club in Ward.

The council has also passed an ordinance establishing the rules and regulations for the operation of private clubs within the city limits.

The ABC board received a copy of the ordinance, but it was not provided to the board by Ward city officials.

“I gave the ordinance to the board,” Knight said. “The city didn’t present it to them.”