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Liquor set to pour in Jonesboro by Monday

By Ed Brock

By Monday the city of Jonesboro plans to start issuing licenses for selling liquor by the drink in the city.

Lisa Ison, owner of Harold's Barbecue on Jonesboro Road, will be one of the first in line.

"I'm happy and excited," Ison said. "I've been waiting on this for a long time."

The Jonesboro City Council approved the final version of the ordinance that regulates the issuing of the licenses at last Monday night's meeting. The law took effect immediately but the city is still preparing the paperwork.

In July citizens of the city voted 128 to 58 in favor of allowing the by-the-drink liquor sales. Supporters of the move say it will bring in new restaurants and businesses to the city's downtown.

"I think it will help my night business a lot," said Ison. "My night business right now is almost non-existent."

Ison said she also plans to start having live entertainment at the restaurant after she gets her license. Her grandfather, Harold Hembree, started the restaurant that now bears his name, and Ison bought it from her parents.

So far the new ordinance has been getting a good response, said Jonesboro City Manager Jon Walker.

"We've heard from some restaurant owners who are excited and think this will open up some potential for them," Walker said.

The new ordinance also includes regulations on package liquor sales.

"We took (the previous ordinance on package sales) and included it in the new ordinance that has to do with any sales of alcohol," Walker said.

The fee for the license is $4,500 for retail consumption of distilled spirits, malt beverages and wine and $1,000 for consumption of malt beverages only or of wine only.

To qualify for an on-premises consumption license the restaurant or lounge must have food sales that equal 65 percent of their gross revenues. Among the other restrictions are a prohibition against "brown bagging," in which customers bring their own alcohol to the establishment to drink, and the sale of hard liquor like whisky and vodka is still prohibited in packages and by the drink.

Also, businesses within 100 yards of the nearest portion of the lot containing a church and 200 yards from a lot containing a school cannot receive a license. Ison said she's not sure if that will affect her chances, since Harold's stands next door to a church.

Up the street from Harold's, Butch's Family Restaurant owners Gail and Bill Glancy have no intention of applying for a license to serve alcohol, since they have no intention of serving alcohol. It wouldn't be appropriate for a family restaurant, Gail Glancy said.

She's not sure if her decision will impact her business.

"I would hope not. I'll have to see," Glancy said.