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      Beverage retailers group trying to keep state alcohol sales off the ballot

      The Arkansas Beverage Retailers Association met with more than 100 local liquor store owners Tuesday to formulate a plan to keep an amendment that would allow state-wide alcohol sales off the November ballot.

      A letter sent to local liquor retailers said they are in the process of organizing a committee to oppose the amendment with the name "Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves."

      "Obviously this would be catastrophic for county line liquor stores around the state, but it also has dire consequences for stores in currently wet counties and wet metropolitan areas," the letter from the Arkansas Beverage Retailers Association stated. "The industry in Arkansas as we have known it would be turned upside down, with the result of inviting global retailers like Walmart, Kroger, Walgreens, Target and others to enter the business at their existing locations with the inevitable impact on existing operators' sales and margins."

      Though Channel 7 News was not allowed in Tuesday's closed door meeting with the beverage association, Mary Dillard, the person helping to organize against Faulkner County liquor sales, tried to explain the group's motive for meeting.

      "Well because this will really impact their business real significantly," Dillard said. "I don't think it's necessarily just competition, I think it's that they're really concerned about Walmart, Kum and Go, and some of these big corporations getting in the business."

      The letter stated they had plans to launch a major advertising campaign against state-wide alcohol sales and also mentioned litigation to keep the initiative off the ballot.

      Earlier this week, a legal team representing "Let Local Communities Decide for Themselves" sent a letter to Secretary of State Mark Martin, saying the ballot initiative didn't follow the Arkansas constitution by submitting the required signatures on July 7, while the law states signatures must be submitted no less than 4 months prior to an election, which would have been July 4.

      "If the deadline falls on a holiday, we roll it to the following business day and that's been standard SOS practice since Amendment 7 went into effect in 1925," said Secretary of State spokeswoman Laura Labay.

      Labay said the office anticipates litigation over the matter and are reviewing the law. They did not know if petition deadlines have fallen on a holiday in the past.

      A spokesman for the state-wide alcohol sales ballot initiative, David Couch, said they're confident they will be on the ballot.

      "The group should disclose who they really are and that their real purpose is that they want to protect their profits," Couch said.

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