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All wet

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Encouraged by positive elections for alcohol sales elsewhere in Arkansas, a drive is underway to make all of Pulaski County open to alcohol sales.

Terry Hartwick, president and CEO of the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce, is leading the effort. It began with his attempt to revive past efforts to open a dry area along John F. Kennedy Boulevard in North Little Rock's Park Hill to alcohol sales. Hartwick thinks the commercial strip could boom from restaurant development there.

But as he talked about it, he got encouragement from others in other parts of dry northern Pulaski County, including Jacksonville and area near Sherwood.

So the effort has expanded. A PR firm is on board and a lawyer has begun legal research.

The initial plan: To seek legislative approval of a statute that would allow a vote covering all, if not precisely, the territory in the four distinct, but now defunct, townships and precincts that have voted themselves dry since the repeal of Prohibition. A law change is needed because, as it stands, an area that has voted itself dry only can vote wet by a vote of the precise area. That would be a headache under precinct and jurisdictional lines redrawn since they went dry.

Wet/dry issues are always controversial because of entrenched religious opposition. If the state law passed, it would allow the county judge to call an election — in this case to make the balance of the county wet. The state law change also could be written to provide a solution for all the counties — there are 26 according to research Hartwick has obtained — that have similar circumstances. That would have both support and opposition in the legislature.

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