Second lawsuit filed challenging state liquor law

by The City Wire staff ([email protected]) 105 views 

Benton County resident Robert McCurry filed suit this week against the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Division after his application for a liquor store permit was denied last month.

The case was filed Tuesday (Aug.13) in U.S. District Court Eastern District. It’s the second lawsuit filed in federal court challenging state law liquor store limits since Benton County became "wet" and the hearings for liquor store permits were held last month.

McCurry applied for a retail liquor store permit in April for The Fine Wine & Spirits Store which was to be located at 2503 S.E. J. Street in Bentonville. On that application, he stated that he had an interest in another liquor store in Missouri. McCurry was chosen in a lottery drawing and allowed to pursue his permit through a hearing process held last month in Little Rock.

During that hearing, the ABC asked McCurry if he held or owned an interest in Gild Corporation, which has liquor permit for Macadoodles in Springdale. McCurry told them he owns a minority interest in Gild Holdings and Gild Corporation. The ABC then denied his application on the basis that he already owned an interest in the Macadoodle franchise and state law prohibits anyone person from owning more than one liquor store in the state, and that includes fractional shares of franchises.

The suit claims the state law passed in 2011, violates the commerce clause and “substantially interferes with interstate commerce.”

If the law is truly applied as written, then anyone who owns a share of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. or Walgreens could also be prohibited owning a liquor store in Arkansas. The suit states that Wal-Mart and Walgreens’s each own one liquor store permit in Fayetteville and West Memphis, respectively. And their shareholders have fractional financial interests in those operations.

The complaint states that the law interferes with interstate commerce as it prevents or restricts the trading of stock of publicly held corporations because it prevents people who own any interest in a retail liquor permit from owning any stock in a publicly traded corporation such as Wal-Mart or Walgreens.

The compliant also charges the law is unconstitutionally vague and violates due process.

Plaintiff counsel Jim Lyons also represents Gild Holdings and Steven Cherry who filed a similar case against the ABC last month.

Lyons said there have been no new developments in the Gild Holdings suit at this time, both sides are waiting on a judge’s ruling to continue or dismiss.