Liquor store attached to Sam's Club opens its doors in Fayetteville

— A liquor store attached to a Sam's Club in Fayetteville opened this week, despite a continuing legal battle over whether the store's sale of spirits violates state law.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which owns the members-only Sam's Club warehouse stores, received a permit from the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Division in July. The permit was opposed by the Arkansas Beverage Retailers Association.

A Sam's Club membership is not required to shop at the liquor store, which is located near the interchange of Interstate 540 and Arkansas 112.

The alcohol retailers group had argued the Sam's Club liquor store violates state law, which says liquor stores can sell only alcohol and related items. But the Fayetteville Sam's Club is designed so that the liquor store is walled off from the rest off the store and will operate separately.

The lawsuit was originally dismissed by Pulaski County Circuit Judge Ellen Brantley, but later reinstated by the Arkansas Supreme Court. Arguments are scheduled for Oct. 26 in Brantley's court in Little Rock.

Wal-Mart has said the Fayetteville liquor store would hold Wal-Mart's only permit to sell liquor in Arkansas. A state law bars permit holders from having more than one permit.

Andrew Johnson, an employee at The Spirit Shop in Fayetteville, said he doesn't expect the Sam's Club store to affect sales much at his liquor store.

"We have a loyal clientele and offer speedy service. If we see someone we know pulling through the drive-through, we have their order ready at the window," he said. "I don't see someone driving down the road to save 30 cents on a case of beer."