Protest draws ABC scrutiny

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Ann Kavanagh, owner of T&A Legends Saloon on US 62, said an event at the bar that started at 11:01 p.m. New Year’s Eve was a protest and not a failure to comply with the governor’s Covid-19 emergency directive that bars close by 11 p.m.

“We were open for protesting, not for a bar,” Kavanagh said. “The bar was not even open. The protest was by invitation only. My point about that is they didn’t shut down Black Lives Matter or Antifa because they are protesting. So why shut down my protest?”

A flyer about the event said, “Invitation To a Peaceful Protest. Dec. 31, 2020. Time 11:01 p.m. Protesting Big Box Stores. State Government Dictatorship. Plan a Protest in Little Rock. Live Entertainment Provided. Drinks Available at Your Cost. Happy New Year. Sponsorship supplied by JP Contractors and 10-4 Tattoos.”

Kavanagh said they are protesting that there are different Covid-19 rules for big box stores than for bars and restaurants. The big box stores are not limited in the hours they can be open or the number of customers that can be in the store at one time. She said it can be harder to social distance at big box stores than in her bar. She said bars and restaurants are being treated unfairly harming their bottom line.

The protest Dec. 31 ended when agents with Alcohol and Beverage Control arrived. ABC does inspections of bars and restaurants for compliance with Covid-19 health directives.

“ABC Administration was alerted that Legends was advertising it would be open until 5 a.m.,” Scott Hardin, ABC spokesman wrote in an email. “As a result, two agents went to Eureka Springs after 11 p.m. to find that it was, in fact, open. When the agents entered, the bouncer indicated they had made ‘last call’ and were closing up. The owner indicated that she was open out of protest and was cooperative. Agents advised the owner this would likely result in violations.”

Kavanagh said the regulations don’t say a protest can’t be held after 11 p.m. One of the agents did advise her of a potential violation.

“I will deal with that when it happens,” Kavanagh said. “I hold no ill feelings toward the agent. He is just doing his job just like I’m doing my job. They are nice guys. I have good relationship with the ABC. He did tell me it had to go to Little Rock. I’ll wait to see what they say and do. I will get a lawyer to defend myself and the people who come to my bar. We social distance. We follow all the rules. I have done everything the health department requires.”

Kavanagh isn’t sure where ABC got the idea Legends was advertising they would be open until 5 a.m.

“Why would I advertise something against the state mandate?” she asked. “There was no advertising of the protest. We didn’t put in on Facebook or in the paper. It was by invitation only and was not a large crowd. We had live entertainment for them because we didn’t want it to become an ugly protest.”

ABC agents do compliance report inspections, but do not issue violations. Legends was listed by the agents as failing the inspection. The inspection reports are submitted to ABC Director Doralee Chandler, who determines if violations will be issued along with the penalty. Hardin said following a review of the report along with the establishment’s history (confirming there is not an active probationary period, etc.). Chandler will make the determination on whether or not there were violations later this week.

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