Leader Blues

Friday, September 12, 2008

TOP STORY > >Eatery denied liquor permit

By JOAN McCOY
Leader staff writer

A request for a private liquor license by Kopan, a Korean-Japanese restaurant on Main Street in Cabot, has been turned down by the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Administration, a state regulatory agency in Little Rock, but that denial will be appealed to the ABC board when it meets Oct. 13.

The procedure is standard.

Michael Langley, ABC director, said in August that if there are objections to a license application, he has no choice except to deny the application and allow all sides to present their cases to the ABC board. In Cabot, church pastors as well as some city officials objected to the permit being issued.

After the board makes its decision, the losing side has the option of appealing to circuit court.

If Kopan succeeds in getting a license to sell alcohol as a private club, it will be the first restaurant in Lonoke County that is open to the public to do so. The ABC granted a private club license to Win Knight 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.

The Ward City Council opposed Knight’s license application, but the Cabot City Council has not taken an official position.

All parts of Lonoke and White counties are dry, meaning there are no liquor stores and alcohol may only be purchased for on-premises consumption at private clubs.

But 2003 changes in state law aimed at promoting tourism and economic growth allow restaurants to acquire private-club liquor licenses and serve alcohol in dry counties.

Some counties like Benton County in the northern part of the state which now has 120 establishments selling alcohol under private-club liquor licenses, have taken advantage of the law. But so far only one restaurant in White County, Kelly’s in Bald Knob, has been granted a license. And no restaurants in Lonoke County serve alcohol.

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.

In White County, in addition to Kelly’s, liquor licenses are held by a country club in Searcy, a VFW in Searcy, a VFW in Beebe and the Eagle Lodge in Searcy.