Eureka Springs Independent Newspaper Column for October 22, 2014 by Steve Weems

While in college, we splurged and celebrated our anniversary at the nicest restaurant we could afford in Russellville, Arkansas. I remember the croutons were good. At the table next to us was another young couple and they ordered wine with their dinner. The waitress apologized and said, “I’m sorry, we’re dry.” When the waitress departed, the couple put their heads together in lively discussion. At the return of the waitress, the young lady said, “We’re from California. Can you explain to us what you mean about being dry?” The waitress cheerfully enlightened the travelers about alcohol sales in Pope County and much of the state.

Arkansas has more dry counties than any other state in the nation. Of the 75 counties in the state, 63 are dry or partially dry. Many locals don’t seem to realize that most of our own Carroll County is dry. There are 21 townships in Carroll County and 14 of them are dry or partially dry.

Since it was decided by a vote of the people, some say it was democracy in action. Others cite big government or the influence of certain church denominations. Others have a simple argument about freedom. I don’t care myself, although I am prone to occasional fits of perverse pride when Arkansas is out of step with mainstream America. It is, after all, an issue settled by most of the United States before World War II.

I’ve read that Arkansas liquor distributors are not necessarily in favor of repealing the ban, though one might wonder why. Some believe it will not change consumption or total sales, but will increase costs of doing business (transportation and paperwork costs, I suppose.)

Of course, Eureka Springs is not dry. My understanding is that it never has been, not even during prohibition. Since supply follows demand, local hill farmers with entrepreneurial ambitions sprang into action. I won’t name names, but I had kin who profited because of prohibition. And some did a little jail time, too. In the 1920s and the early 1930s the federal courts in both Fayetteville and Harrison did a booming business prosecuting and processing many small business owners.