Deadline is Dec. 3 to collect signatures

The deadline to collect signatures is approaching for a petition calling for a vote to allow Mountain Home stores to sell alcohol on Sundays.

Tuesday, Dec. 3, is the final day to submit petitions to the Baxter County Clerk’s Office for consideration to be placed on the March 3 election ballot.

The Sunday alcohol petition — which can be viewed and signed at Jack’s Package Store, Judicious Spirits or Midtown Spirits — requires the signatures of at least 622 registered voters living inside the city limits to be placed on the ballot. The petition has been circulating since late September.

“I know we’ve given (the Clerk’s Office) a couple hundred signatures, and I know Jack’s had given them a couple hundred just the other day,” Midtown Spirits owner Jerry McDonald said. “I can’t tell you a specific number, but I know it’s pretty close.”

If approved by Mountain Home voters, the petition would allow grocery stores, gas stations and liquor stores located inside the Mountain Home city limits to sell alcohol from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. on Sundays, something that is currently prohibited.

In Baxter County, Salesville is currently the only city that permits such sales, commonly called “off premise” sales to distinguish those transactions from alcohol purchased at a restaurant during a meal.

“This is something that’s all around us,” McDonald said. “You can already drive to Salesville and buy alcohol on Sunday. You can drive to another county or the Missouri line and buy there (on Sundays).”

The Arkansas Legislature’s Act 294 of 2009 allowed restaurants with the correct Alcohol Beverage Control Division license to sell alcohol on Sundays. It also allowed municipalities to decide whether they wished to allow off premise Sunday alcohol sales through a citywide election.

Under Act 294, supporters must collect valid signatures equal to 15 percent of the votes cast in the last governor’s race. Mountain Home residents cast 4,144 votes the last race, giving petitioners the target of 622 signatures to collect.

Signees are required to be a registered voter living inside the city limits.

“I think we’re going to make it, but you want to have more than just the minimum because some will get thrown out,” McDonald said. “That’s why we’re trying to get this last little push.”

McDonald said his employees have a master list of Mountain Home registered voters to help screen out ineligible signees.

“For the most part, we can keep up with it. But I told the guys, if they’re busy don’t look through it, just trust them,” he said. “They tell them, ‘Hey, city limits and registered to vote.’ We’ve found a couple that didn’t qualify.”

If approved by Mountain Home residents, Sunday off premise alcohol sales would give the city an additional 52 days of sales tax on alcohol. It would also make things a little less confusing for out-of-area vacationers that visit the area lakes and are unfamiliar with the state’s alcohol laws.

“I’ll come in on Sundays to get some paperwork done, and in the summer I will get 15 people knocking on the door,” McDonald said. “It’s people from out of town, out on the lake. They need to get beer or wine, and they’re knocking on the door asking, ‘Hey, are you guys open?’ Not on Sunday, not here.”

If the County Clerk’s Office certifies that the petition has at least 622 valid signatures, it will appear on the March 3 election ballot alongside judicial elections and the Democrat and Republican primary contests. Voting on the proposal would be restricted to registered voters living inside the city limits.

“All the petition does is get it on the ballot. That’s it,” McDonald said. “Everyone in the city would get a chance to vote on it. It allows people to make a decision on whether this is a good thing or not.”

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