DBTC Law Firm


The Patchwork Quilt of Liquor Laws in Arkansas is Indecipherable, But Is It Unconstitutional?

Anyone who has driven from town to town, county to county, through Arkansas discovers that they need to plan carefully where and how they might have a cocktail. Being six inches to one side or the other of a county or city line can make all the difference. This arbitrariness has not gone unchallenged.

White County, Arkansas, under the Arkansas legal framework of allowing each local government to decide whether to permit or prohibit the manufacture and sale of alcoholic beverages, has prohibited the same. Mr. Brennan, a Searcy resident, asserted that he wanted to open a liquor store, consume alcohol in restaurants, and purchase alcohol without having to travel outside his home county. He urged that the issue was a matter of safety in that he suffers an “unnecessarily increased risk of being involved in an alcohol-related, fatal crash” because he has to travel afar to legally imbibe. He also argued that in dry counties, drug related crime constitutes a greater threat to the public than in counties where the sale of alcohol is legal. Finally, he argued that there was no legitimate state interest in using the police power to impose “majority morality,” on those whose conduct does not harm others.

The Arkansas courts made short work of his arguments, finding that such law, so long as it had even the least rational basis at all to achieving any legitimate governmental objective under any reasonable conceivable fact situation, had a “rational-basis” and therefore would stand under well-established constitutional law principles which give authority to the legislature to make whatever laws they may, as long as they have any rational basis. Brennan v. White County, 2019 Ark. App. 146.