LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Alcoholic Beverage Control agents in Arkansas have been going non-stop since Governor Asa Hutchinson implemented restrictions on the state’s restaurants, clubs, and bars.
Governor Hutchinson has said he would depend on the public to alert authorities to establishments that don’t comply with directives. Communications Director for the Department of Finance and Administration Scott Hardin says that has been the case, “ We get emails, we get calls, quite a few calls and people may want to remain anonymous and it’s just simply ‘hey I had lunch here today I didn’t see any server wearing a mask, I didn’t see anyone concerned with social distancing.’ Do we go take a look and the answer is yes.”
When ABC agents do get complaints they follow up on all of them. “None of them are ignored,” Hardin said. Agents will follow up on complaints either in-person or if an establishment has a history of compliance they will get a phone call.
Hardin says the Department, which oversees the ABC, understands the fatigue of enforcing the mandates in restaurants, “It’s tough, I hate it, it’s tough to keep this up At this point we understand nobody wants to be the person who stands at the door telling every patron you have to wear a mask but someone has to do that to remain in compliance.”
The Governor has said enforcement will become more strict with violations. Hardin said the approach by agents early on was to educate establishments on what the directives said. Agents would give warnings to places not complying with directives and even give them copies of those orders but six months into, that has changed.
Hardin said, “I think that leniency has changed probably in the last month you see a much more direct approach in that he we’ve been doing this since June if if you if you’re not following it by this point that’s all that’s gonna be a big concern.”
The ABC has issued multiple violations to 10 establishments and so far there have been no recommendations to pull licenses from any restaurant, bar, or club. Hardin says that the enforcement is not a mechanism to shut down a business but rather to keep them open by making sure they are in compliance with state directives.