Arkansas voters will decide in November whether to standardize their state’s alcohol laws, currently a patchwork of wet and dry counties, after the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Amendment turned in enough signatures to qualify for the ballot Friday.
Arkansas is one of 10 states that allow dry counties, according to the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association. An additional 15 states are “partially dry,” having some alcohol controls.
Wet and dry counties in the United States
Blue counties are wet, red counties are dry, and yellow counties are either partially dry, with some alcohol restrictions, or have municipalities within them that are dry.
Some states began allowing counties and cities to ban alcohol sales following the repeal of Prohibition in 1933, while in others, like Alaska and Mississippi, municipalities didn’t start going dry until the 1960s and 1980s, respectively. But the trend in many of these dry areas is toward loosening restrictions, the National Alcohol Beverage Control Association says.
“While there may always be dry localities in the United States, they are getting fewer and far between,” according to a March report from the group.
In Maryland, for example, the last dry town, Damascus, became wet in 2012, and Kansas has seen more than a dozen counties go wet in the past decade. Advocates in Arkansas hope their state will join that list.
“The majority of counties in the state of Arkansas will not ever have the chance to [become wet counties] because the liquor lobbyists have got the rules so it’s almost impossible to get on the ballot,” David Couch, who’s organizing the ballot measure in Arkansas, told the Baxter Bulletin. He said the group hopes to raise $1.5 million for the measure from grocery and convenience stores.
About half of Arkansas’ counties, or 37 out of 75, are dry.