Sunday, November 22, 2009

Poor Folks, Profits, Police, and Politicians

Well, well, well. The local politicians and the retail liquor cartel are at it again. This time they were flushed out by applications to sell beer and small vineyard specialty wines at three local Walmart stores. State Senator Sue Madison was, of course, right in the middle of it, and Fayetteville Police Chief Greg Tabor expressed his usual rote opposition to any and all alcohol sales. Some preachers also wrote letters against the permits. Alderman Bobby Ferrell wrote a letter supporting the permits. Mayor Lioneld Jordan and the Fayetteville Chamber of Commerce took no position.

The Iconoclast is no fan of Walmart, but we would have granted all three permits. The Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Board approved the permits for the Walmart Supercenter on Joyce and for the Walmart Neighborhood Market on Crossover, but they denied the permit for the Walmart Supercenter on Martin Luther King Boulevard in the low income part of town. Only the action to deny this third permit deserves much attention.

ABC Director Michael Langley offered the excuse that the board denied the MLK Walmart permit based on availability, traffic, and crime concerns. Okay, let's dissect this bullshit. Availability - the huge Crossover Liquor is just across the street from the WM Family Market, much closer than any competing outlet for the MLK Walmart. Traffic - way more cars all day long at the Joyce/Mall Avenue Supercenter, not that traffic count should have any connection to package sales because there is no demonstrated connection to DUI. Crime - they sell handguns at the MLK Supercenter for Gawdsakes, and more people are killed by bullets than being attacked with beer bottles.

The fact situation is pretty much the same for all three permit applications. The only real differences between the MLK location and the other two are social class and income levels in the neighborhoods. The ABC Board denied the permit for the location most convenient for working stiffs.

Now what was Sue Madison's dog in this hunt? In the past, she opposed retail liquor permits for Sam's Club in Springdale and Macadoodle's in Springdale, the last of which was supposed to be some insane screed about how many Benton County residents had shopped at their store just across the state line. You know, the store right there next to her colleague State Senator Kim Hendren's car lot.

The real reason is because she was doing the bidding for a certain liquor retailer that has a multi-permit monopoly on liquor stores in Springdale, not even in her district, and Madison was trying to keep him from having any price competition. This time she appears to be trying to stifle price competition in Fayetteville. Why stop with liquor sales, Senator? Every new retail business will be in competition with existing businesses, so get out there and oppose all new retail businesses in your district. That would make as much sense as your constant shilling for the liquor store owners.


  1. Our new Mayor tries his damndest not to take a position on anything. And when he does, he won't explain himself.

  2. Sue Madison has done much good and only a few things stupid in her representation of her district in the House and Senate. However, it is unwarranted and unreasonable meddling like this that makes me think term limits are a good thing for the state legislature.

  3. Agreed, they should have allowed sales at all locations. However, allow me to play devil's advocate.

    Availability - there is a liqor store directly across the street from the MLK WM and other locations on the same road the closer you get to UofA. There are no liquor stores around the Mall location.

    Traffic - The MLK WM lies directly on US 62 and just off 540, both high-speed and high-volume roads. Sure, traffic is congested at the other supercenter, but you have to pass through side roads before you reach 71B or 540.

    Crime - perhaps this refers more to a concern about selling to minors (underage UA students) than general criminal activity? The MLK location is considered the primary Wal-Mart used by UA students. It is called the University Wal-Mart.

    As far as being in a low-income neighborhood, there is very little in the way of actual neighborhoods in the direct vicinity of the MLK store.

  4. You get an A+ for that new Griesedieck sign! Where in the world do you find those relics of my childhood?

  5. Jonah,

    I entirely agree with your argument that it makes no sense for the government to create and enforce monopolies: "Why stop with liquor sales, Senator? Every new retail business will be in competition with existing businesses, so get out there and oppose all new retail businesses in your district. That would make as much sense as your constant shilling for the liquor store owners."

    My only question is why don't you extend your argument to education and criticize the State Board of Education for failing to approve any of the 6 new public charter applications that would compete with traditional public school districts?

  6. Anon 5:08, your argument for charter schools might be valid but the analogy is flawed. A "public charter school" receives public funds from a state education budget that does not adequately fund traditional public schools. Let the charter advocates eschew the public funds and show that the market will respond to adequately fund their superior private school programs.

  7. Where is Jonah, and what have you done with him? Your position on this issue makes no sense. There is ample competition in the beer market in Washington County already. The reason people think beer costs more in Arkansas is not because of a lack of competition, but because Arkansas liquor taxes are higher than other states. Bottom line: This issue is about responsible locally owned businesses who contribute to our community versus corporate America out only for the benefit of their stockholders. It's utterly shocking that Jonah would side with corporate America on this one and advocate driving the little guy out of business. I'm sure your local liquor store owners really appreciate that.

  8. The monopoly that needs busting up is the liquor DISTRIBUTORS.

  9. I don't get it. It's more important to break-up an alcohol retail oligopoly to ensure that poor folks who live near 6th St. can get reasonably price beer than to break-up the public school monopoly in that area so that their kids can get a quality education.

    And Anon 5:41, your argument makes no sense. How does guaranteeing the Fayetteville school district all of the revenue regardless of how well or poorly they serve students (even if the total amount of revenue is too small) help those low-income kids?

    In general, I need a guide to know when Iconoclast readers are really for the little guy and when they aren't. Anon 11:02 is rooting for small business owners even if it drives up beer prices for low-income people. And Anon 5:41 is rooting for school districts at the expense of low-income kids. It sounds to me like some Iconoclast readers are just advocates for the good old boy network of over-priced stores and bumbling school officials rather than for the real little guy -- low income people looking to buy beer and educate their kids.