Leader Blues

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

TOP STORY > >Ministers will fight permit to sell liquor

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

Kopan, the Korean-Japanese restaurant and sushi bar that opened recently on Main Street in Cabot, has applied for a private-club liquor license. If the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approves the application, Kopan will become the first restaurant open to the public in Lonoke County to serve alcohol.

Alcoholic Beverage Control granted a private club license to Win Knight on March 31, contingent on the actual construction and approval by the state Health Department for a restaurant in Ward, but opponents appealed to circuit court and the restaurant has not been built.

Cabot Mayor Eddie Joe Williams said last week in a memo to city council members that he met with local pastors and “the overwhelming consensus was that they are against Kopan receiving a liquor license.”

Williams said a letter to the ABC would request that the permit be denied so Lonoke County could remain a dry county.

“While some may argue that this would be a good source of tax revenue for the city, any amount of revenue cannot recover the lives that are lost through alcohol,” the mayor wrote.

Alderman Teri Miessner, a vocal supporter of private-club liquor licenses, said the letter the mayor intends to send to the ABC does not reflect how she feels about the matter.

Cabot has 22,000 residents, she said, and many of them consume alcohol. They buy it at the liquor stores just over the Pulaski County line. They go to restaurants in Jacksonville, North Little Rock and Little Rock to have wine or beer with their steaks.

Cabot needs revenue for streets and a new fire station, Miessner said. The upscale restaurant that Kopan wants to be could provide some of the tax revenue to pay for those needs.

“People don’t mind paying tax on their cigarettes and alcohol. We can tax their habits. We can’t keep taxing their water and their homes,” she said. “And the last time I looked, the pastors weren’t the only taxpayers in Cabot.”

Michael Langley, ABC director, said Tuesday that when he receives a request for a private- club liquor license, he notifies the local mayor, prosecutor and police chief, who in turn notify interested parties.

“Opposition matters,” Langley said. “If enough people object, the director denies the application and it will go before the board for a full hearing.”

If, as in the case of the restaurant planned in Ward, the board grants the liquor license, the losing side has the option of appealing to circuit court, he said.

The state has issued four private-club liquor licenses in Lonoke County, two for clubs in Cabot’s Greystone, one for Rolling Hills Country Club in Cabot and one for Mallard Point in Lonoke. White County, north of Lonoke County, is also dry, and Langley said only one restaurant there has received a private-club license, Kelly’s in Bald Knob. The other four licenses are held by a country club in Searcy, a VFW in Searcy, a VFW in Beebe and the Eagles Lodge in Searcy.