LITTLE ROCK, Ark (Reuters) - In addition to the $1 window cleaner and discount duct tape, a new and more controversial household item will soon be available for people in Arkansas making a quick trip to the dollar store: Beer.
Some 50 Dollar General stores throughout the state have won beer permits from the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Division, giving drinkers one less stop to make on payday - and critics one more reason to be worried about alcohol abuse.
“Our customers buy beer elsewhere, and this was an opportunity for us to reinforce our convenient advantage,” Tawn Earnest, Dollar General’s senior director of corporate communications, told Reuters on Monday.
But anti-alcohol advocates say that giving people more opportunities to find booze will just hurt communities.
“There is a reason that these are called vices,” said Jerry Cox, president of the Family Council of Arkansas. “The more vices you have in your community, the less desirable these places become.”
The Dollar General sees beer sales as part of the company’s mission to be the one-stop destination for everyday supplies, Earnest said. In many rural towns, Dollar General stores are the only place to buy groceries and life’s necessities, as the Arkansas-based Wal-Mart — the nation’s largest retailer — is sometimes several miles away.
But the move by the Tennessee-based discount chain could be bad news for Wal-Mart, as well as convenience stores, in wet counties where beer is already sold.
Dollar General has 265 stores in Arkansas. Wal-Mart has 118 stores including supercenters, neighborhood markets and Sam’s Clubs. There are 1,783 convenience stores, according to the National Association of Convenience Stores.
Dollar General managers had originally applied for 64 permits but 14 were denied based on written protests by local residents, churches, law enforcement officials or elected officials. Dollar General can appeal the rejections, Michael Langley, the state’s ABC director said.
“Are we going to find ourselves awash in a sea of liquor permits?” Cox said. “Is that the kind of image we want for our communities?”
For now, Dollar General will only be allowed to sell beer that has no more than five percent alcohol content, Langley said.
Edited by Karen Brooks and Greg McCune