The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

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October 13, 2012

Benton County liquor vote could affect McDonald County

BENTONVILLE, Ark. — Southwest Missouri residents are watching races in their own state, of course, but two issues on the ballot in Arkansas could have an impact here.

One is a proposed statewide sales tax to fund road construction, and it could initiate work on the long-awaited Bella Vista bypass.

The second could affect Missouri businesses and communities along the state line.

Benton County — a dry county since 1935 — could go wet if voters approve a measure on the Nov. 6 ballot that would allow retail alcohol sales in the county.

The campaign, which is being backed by two Wal-Mart heirs, could affect McDonald County, Mo., where liquor and convenience stores and a Wal-Mart Supercenter near the state line cater to residents of Northwest Arkansas. Some McDonald County liquor stores receive up to 75 percent of their business from Benton County residents.

What passage of the ballot measure would mean for those businesses is up in the air.

Jo Nell Lawyer, former chairman of the Jane board of trustees and now the clerk of McDonald County village, agrees that the number of Arkansas residents shopping in Missouri is large. But even if Benton County goes wet, she said McDonald County could still prove a temptation for Northwest Arkansas residents because sales taxes will be lower, and for many the Missouri liquor stores still will be closer. She also said the liquor businesses along the state line have built up good “customer loyalty” over the years that she thinks could carry them through.

“I would say it is going to take some revenue, but it isn’t going to be too drastic,” said Lawyer. “I don’t think it is going to be enormous.”

McDonald County Presiding Commissioner Keith Lindquist concurs.

“Since most of the liquor stores are down by the (state) line, I’m sure it will have an effect ... I think without a doubt it will hurt some, but if people get to liking where they are going, I don’t think it will change that much.”

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