Arkansas Senate Narrowly Passes Bill Allowing Self-Serve Alcohol in Bars

On Wednesday the Arkansas Senate narrowly passed a bill authorizing alcohol sales at bars and restaurants via self-service vending machines.

S.B. 475 by Sen. Joshua Bryant (R – Rogers) amends Arkansas’ law prohibiting alcohol sales via vending machine.

The bill authorizes self-serve machines that dispense beer, wine, mixed drinks, and distilled spirits for on-premises consumption in bars and restaurants.

S.B. 475 would authorize self-serve bars and taprooms in Arkansas as other states have done.

Under S.B. 475, patrons would be provided with an radio frequency identification device device (RFID) — such as a bracelet with an RFID in it — that they could scan to activate the self-serve machine.

A person would be able to self-serve up to 32 ounces of beer, 12 ounces of wine, ten ounces of mixed liquors, or three ounces of unmixed, distilled spirits before the RFID would require reactivation by an employee at the bar or restaurant.

Among other things, self-serve alcohol consumption at bars and restaurants raises concerns about oversight and about ensuring that patrons aren’t over-served.

S.B. 475 now goes to the Arkansas House of Representatives for consideration.

The Following Senators Voted For S.B. 475

  • J. Boyd
  • J. Bryant
  • B. Davis
  • J. Dismang
  • J. English
  • Flippo
  • Hickey
  • Hill
  • Irvin
  • B. Johnson
  • M. Johnson
  • G. Leding
  • M. McKee
  • R. Murdock
  • J. Payton
  • C. Penzo
  • J. Petty
  • C. Tucker
  • D. Wallace

The Following Senators Voted Against S.B. 475

  • A. Clark
  • Crowell
  • Dees
  • J. Dotson
  • S. Flowers
  • K. Hammer
  • Hester
  • F. Love
  • Rice
  • Stone
  • G. Stubblefield
  • D. Sullivan

The Following Senators Voted “Present”

  • L. Chesterfield
  • Gilmore

The Following Senators Did Not Vote

  • Caldwell
  • B. King

Articles appearing on this website are written with the aid of Family Council’s researchers and writers.

Lawmakers Continue Filing Bills to Expand Alcohol in Arkansas

Alcohol expansion continues to be a major topic at the Arkansas Legislature.

This year, lawmakers have filed multiple bills amending and expanding the state’s alcohol laws.

For example, S.B. 411 by Sen. Missy Irvin (R – Mountain View) and Rep. Matt Brown (R – Conway) more than doubles the percentage of alcohol by weight that beer can contain under Arkansas law.

Current law says beer can contain no more than 5% alcohol by weight. S.B. 411 raises that limit to 12% alcohol by weight. This could drastically increase the alcohol content of beer sold in Arkansas.

H.B. 1589 by Rep. Jay Richardson (D – Fort Smith) repeals Arkansas’ limit on the number of alcohol wholesaler permits in the state. Repealing this limit could expand the number of wholesalers selling alcohol in Arkansas.

H.B. 1498 by Rep. Matt Brown (R – Conway) and Sen. Missy Irvin (R – Mountain View) would expand alcohol at microbrewery-restaurant private clubs and let municipalities authorize public drinking in entertainment districts outside microbrewery-restaurant private clubs. The bill passed the Arkansas House last week, and is in the Arkansas Senate this week.

The Arkansas Legislature has already passed Act 34 of 2023 by Rep. David Ray (R – Maumelle) and Sen. Matt McKee (R – Pearcy) letting cities and towns that do not collect advertising and promotion taxes on hotels and restaurants establish entertainment districts where public drinking is legal. This has the potential to expand public drinking in Arkansas by letting communities authorize public drinking in entertainment districts even if the community does not cater toward hospitality and tourism. Another new law — Act 169 of 2023 by Rep. David Ray (R – Maumelle) and Sen. Justin Boyd (R – Fort Smith) — would expand alcohol sales via microbreweries.

Alcohol is readily available in Arkansas. At this point, any law expanding its availability or consumption raises serious concerns about DUI offenses, crime, public health, and public safety.

That is why Family Council generally opposes the expansion of alcohol in Arkansas.