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LR 'Private Club' Supporters Warn Against Cutting Hours

Efforts to curb drinking hours at so-called "private clubs" in Little Rock are getting some push back.
LITTLE ROCK, AR -- Efforts to curb drinking hours at so-called "private clubs" in Little Rock are getting some push back.

At Midtown Billiards and the other 10 or so clubs in the city the party keeps going until 5:00am, hours after other bars and night clubs are forced to close.

"If you're out past two o'clock in the morning, you're probably asking for trouble," says John Fugere, a River Market visitor.

That sentiment has led Little Rock police chief Stuart Thomas and some on the city's board of directors to push for change that could force alcohol sales to stop at 2:00am for everyone.

"What that means is I'm going to have to make a decision on who to let go," said Midtown owner Maggie Hinson.

To keep that from happening, Hinson and other private club owners have started a campaign to resist efforts to cut their hours.

They point to a study by the Arkansas License Beverage Association saying more than 150 employees pulling in $1.3 million in salaries could be laid off.

Nearly $600,000 in taxes and permit fees to the city and state could be lost, the study says.

"My people that work with me have families," Hinson said.  "They are all very, very concerned about where this is going to go and so am I."

Hinson says those who don't understand her long hours don't realize who her customers are.

People like River Market bartender Brock Smith who don't get off work until other bars close.

"We all get off work, I'm friends with everybody down here, and we take off and we go to Midtown."

There, Hinson says, people are safe.  There's a cop on duty and bartenders can stop serving those who drink too much.  Cut her hours and Hinson says the party moves to private homes.

"I really don't know how much people are gonna be concerned about safety," she said.

Several members of the Little Rock Board of Directors said Saturday they are still on the fence on this issue, wanting to learn more about the economic impact of making any changes.
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