Ever since E-Z Mart on MLK in Fayetteville broke the ice in the spring of 2009, beer permits for Fayetteville convenience stores and grocery chains have been flowing like wine around here (sorry.)
Two Walmart stores got approved in November of 2009. Another Walmart store started selling beer and wine in March of 2011. Several Dollar General stores were also approved, and a host of local convenience stores now sell beer in Fayetteville.
Ozark Natural Foods applied for Retail Beer Off Premises and Small Farm Winery – Retail permits in October, and the Harps application was posted last week.
Officials with Ozark Natural Foods expect to learn whether their request will be approved after the December meeting of the ABC Board of Directors.
“We asked our owners if this is a line of products that they would like us to bring to them,” said store manager Mike Anzalone. “The survey results were overwhelmingly in favor.
“There is a growing market of sustainable, harvested and organic alcohol that we would like to support. The more support they get in the market, the more they will grow. You won’t find mass produced beer and wine on our shelves. We will concentrate on small breweries and wineries, sustainably harvested wines, and organics whenever possible.”
J. Max Van Hoose, Vice-President of Store Planning for Harps Food Stores said that the decision to apply for the permit is a response to the competitive environment around the store.
“Things have changed a lot on that corner. The liquor store used to be the only place to buy beer there, and now you’ve got the White Oak Station, the Neighborhood Market, and Walgreens.” he said.
Attorneys representing Harps Food Stores opposed permits for two Fayetteville convenience stores in 2009, citing concern over traffic congestion and underage drinking.
“We said publicly back then that we weren’t opposed to selling beer and wine – we have several stores that sell beer – just that the more people that sold it, the more likely it might end up in the wrong hands,” he said. “We also said that if others went down that road, we would have to evaluate doing so ourselves because that environment would have changed.
“Now, we’re just trying to compete with our competitors,” he told us.
Van Hoose said he was not sure if Harps would seek beer permits at its other area locations.
“That’s the only store in Northwest Arkansas we’ve filed a permit for, but that’s something we’ll evaluate on a store-by-store basis,” he said.