A recent petition drive kickoff for the local option liquor by the drink issue attracted a sizable crowd of business owners and residents of the Park Hill neighborhood. Organizers said the purpose of the meeting held at E’s Bistro in the North Hills Shopping Center was to recruit and educate volunteers in an effort to help gather enough signatures in the next several weeks to call for an election.

The areas affected which have been "dry" since 1966 for six precinct districts in North Little Rock will be allowed to choose if they want to remain "dry" or become "wet". They are primarily in the historic Park Hill district and along both sides of JFK from A Street to north or McCain Boulevard, taking in neighborhoods in Park Hill and part of Lakewood.

North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce President Terry Hartwick told the crowd that approving liquor by the drink will stimulate economic development along the JFK corridor once restaurants are allowed to serve alcohol with dinner, allowing them to compete with other restaurants in the city. He assured the group no liquor stores will be allowed in Park Hill.

According to Hartwick, the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce took a lead in helping lobby for State Act 1018, a bill passed by the legislature earlier this year. It allows for identifying the former precinct boundaries and provides that if 38 percent of registered voters in any of the seven precincts sign petitions to call for an election, those precincts will be allowed to choose if they want to remain "dry" or go "wet."

"In time, Park Hill will compete on an equal playing field as a destination for diners who want to enjoy a mixed drink or wine or beer with a nice dinner," Hartwick said. "When you do that, other types of businesses will follow."

Steve Winchester, Park Hill business owner and leader of the historic Park Hill Business group, has also taken a leadership role in developing support for the petition drive.

"This election is about Revitalization, Economic Development, and Jobs. It’s about growing our existing businesses like E’s Bistro as well as attracting new restaurants and businesses to this area," Winchester told the crowd.

Additional volunteers are needed and are asked to contact the Chamber to sign up to help with the petition drive. A neighborhood door-to-door canvass is underway during the next few weeks.

To volunteer, call Jackson Rawlings at the North Little Rock Chamber of Commerce at 372-5959.