If you are in an Arkansas county that allows alcohol sales, don’t go looking for a bottle of Mondavi or Sutter Home wine in your local supermarket. Thanks to state law, even though you may be able to buy a bottle of wine at a grocery in a ‘wet’ county, you are unlikely to find an extensive selection of choices. Wine consumers who want more choices will have to go to a second store. Retailers who want to satisfy consumer demand for one-stop shopping are hobbled by state law that blocks the sale of products from most wineries.
Arkansas law that limits wine choices at groceries therefore makes little sense from a consumer’s perspective. But it also makes little sense for anyone who wants to increase economic growth or state tax revenue. Limiting wine sales at grocery stores in ‘wet’ counties hurts job creation and reduces tax revenue. It also puts the state in the position of denying consumers an amenity that many consider relevant to their quality of life. Finally, it is legitimate to consider the potential costs to taxpayers of a constitutional challenge to this law, given that it seems difficult or impossible to justify.
Arkansas consumers are steadily increasing their purchases of wine. State law should reflect this reality and allow them freedom of choice in wet-county grocery stores. This advancement of economic freedom won’t just benefit consumers – it will also create jobs and grow the state’s tax revenue. It’s a true case of a win-win-win situation. The current state of Arkansas law in this area, as best we can tell, creates no benefit to the public at all – and, from the perspective of foregone tax revenue, it leaves money on the table.
If you're interested in changing this situation, you'll want to look at our new paper, Empowering Consumers: How a Small Change to Wine Regulations Will Create a Favorable Economic Impact for Arkansans. The paper is coauthored by Greg Kaza (Arkansas Policy Foundation) and Dan Greenberg (Advance Arkansas Institute).