Arkansas C-stores Get OK to Begin Offering Expanded Wine Assortment

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Arkansas C-stores Get OK to Begin Offering Expanded Wine Assortment

Wine bottles

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Arkansas' Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved a measure allowing convenience and grocery stores to sell an expanded selection of wine.

With the vote on Nov. 15, the board issued 214 new permits to stores in "wet counties." Previously, grocery and convenience stores were limited to selling only small-batch farm wines, but lawmakers voted earlier this year to allow grocers to expand their selections, according to Arkansas Online.

The state's liquor stores had opposed the effort to expand wine sales by their competitors.

Owners of smaller liquor stores argued that the change unfairly allowed their competitors to increase their alcohol sales without having to follow the same rules as liquor stores. Among those rules is restrictions on how close liquor stores can be to schools and churches, the news outlet reported.

According to Alcoholic Beverage Control Director Mary Robin Casteel, the newly permitted stores were able to begin expanded wine sales Nov. 16. She had earlier given the go-ahead to stores, allowing them to stock up on wines in anticipation of the vote, but they were not allowed to place bottles on shelves, the report added.

None of the board members opposed issuing the new permits.

On Nov. 14, a U.S. district judge in Little Rock declined to issue a preliminary injunction against the permitting process. The decision led the way for the board's Nov. 15 vote. The injunction had been sought by several liquor store owners, who argued that discrepancies in the rules the different types of stores must follow violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

C-store and grocery store owners began applying for the new wine sales permits as soon as Act 508 of 2017 went into effect on Oct. 1. The Alcoholic Beverage Control board received 216 applications within 17 days, and all but two were approved, Arkansas Online reported.

Two applications were scheduled for a later administrative hearing.

Of the permits approved by the board, more than three-quarters were issued to five retailers: Kum & Go, Wal-Mart, Harps, Walgreens and Kroger.