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Arkansas ABC faces state lawmakers to talk regulations changes

(Photo: KATV)

In the wake of several violent incidents, Arkansas lawmakers are now asking the Alcoholic Beverage Control board to take a fresh look at the rules it enforces.

Senator Eddie Joe Williams, chair for Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs, told fellow lawmakers it's about safety.

"The general public goes into an establishment and wants to have a beer and a hamburger, and drives off and somebody shoots at them,” said Williams. “We're just simply trying to prevent that."

The mass shooting at the Power Ultra Lounge in downtown Little Rock back in July was given as one example for needed changes in regulations.

"We had an idea that it was becoming a problem, but they never crossed over a line where we could enact some really stiff punishment,” said Boyce Hamlet, Enforcement Director for ABC.

Williams wants businesses that have repeating patterns addressed before major incidents happen.

"If these establishments continue to serve minors, or have a gambling, or some could have a gambling operation inside,” said Williams. “There's a whole host of things that we're going to try to tighten up on."

Even with multiple reports, the director of ABC says the board will still be fair.

"We're not going to just automatically say 'well, you're guilty,’” said Mary Casteel, ABC director. “We'll look at the circumstances surrounding that."

ABC will now look at increasing fines and creating harsher penalties that match up with other states.

There's no word yet on how much either will possibly change.

Members of the committee will draft up ideas and vote on any proposed solutions at the next meeting.

Whatever changes are proposed, ABC will have to wait until the next legislative session to get them approved.

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