With less than 30 days to go before Costco opens its first location in Arkansas, many people were thrilled to learn that Costco will be selling hard liquor at the retail location.
For this week’s Thirsty Thursday, AY About You takes a deeper dive into the legality and policy behind retail liquor licenses here in the Natural State.
Costco, which is the third-largest retailer in the world, will be opening its doors at 8 a.m. on July 21. The store is located at the corner of Chenal Parkway and Kirk Road, in Little Rock
While the Costco chain already had a license to sell beer and wine, the retailer was awarded a retail liquor license by the Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC) board. This license allows the store to sell all kinds of hard liquor and spirits, instead of only beer and wine.
Despite opposition from some locals who argued that this availability would hurt local liquor stores, the ABC proceeded with their decision.
Scott Hardin, the spokesperson for the ABC, outlines the process and rules.
“In terms of beer and wine permits, Costco had already submitted an application for the main store,” Hardin says. “That was previously approved. This [the hard liquor license] was a separate request.”
Hardin explains that for every 7,500 residents in a wet county, the county is allowed one retail liquor license. If the population goes up by 7,500 in a county, a new liquor license will become available for retailers to apply for.
Costco, however, bought the assets of an existing liquor store, and the request to the ABC was to transfer the rights of the existing permit.
Of course, this impacts the layout of the store, as well as entrances. A retail liquor permit can be operated in a designated space only as a retail liquor permit. This means that retailers, such as Costco, would have to have a separate room/space with a separate entrance for hard liquor only, and a separate entrance for a separate space with retail wares only.
“For the purposes of rules and regulations and to be in compliance, it has to be a totally separate space,” Hardin says.
Hardin shares that the only other retailer that operates a retail liquor license on-site is a Sam’s Club location in Northwest Arkansas. The remaining permits are liquor stores that aren’t associated with retail chains.