Another Searcy restaurant has requested a private club permit, with the city already set to hold a public hearing on a previous request next month.
The Searcy City Council is expected to set a time and date Tuesday for a public hearing on the new request, which was made for Mi Ranchito on Race Avenue, to be allowed to serve alcohol. The public hearing on the request by the other restaurant, Venezia’s Italian Grill on Race Avenue, will be held Nov. 9 before the council’s meeting. The cost to apply for the private club permit is $1,500.
The new application was filed on behalf of Alejandro Tristian Jones, vice president of the board of directors for Mi Ranchito On Race Inc. Jones wrote that the restaurant was opened by his father, Alex Jasso, president of the board of directors for Mi Ranchito, in 2001 and operated as a Mexican restaurant until Aug. 11, 2020. It now serves seafood along with Mexican plates.
After that, Jones wrote, his father opened a couple more restaurants bearing the same name, in Cabot and in Bryant. He noted that both of those restaurants are still operating and “are both offering alcohol along with our fine Mexican cuisine.”
In 2013, his father opened El Almacen, which was one of the first Searcy restaurants in 2017 to be approved by the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control board for a liquor license. “My mother, Alisha Jones, secretary on the board of directors for Mi Ranchito On Race, was the one who applied for the permit and successfully got it after a long couple of months.”
Jones said his father has been in the restaurant business for over 25 years, starting out as a busboy before advancing to waiter, then manager, then owner. Jones said his father checks the restaurants daily to make sure they are operating smoothly and if something is going wrong, he said his father is the first to know and always has a solution. He said his mother has also been in the restaurant business for a while.
“Back when my mother and father were together, my mother was a part of the beginning of the restaurant journey,” he said. “After they went parted ways, the opportunity arose and my mother ended up being a manager at El Almacen in Searcy. My mother has served tables before and also has even been involved in working the bar some nights. My mother is quite the manager and knows how to properly run a restaurant and customer service.”
The love Jones said he has for the restaurant business started when he was young. “I remember being a little 10- to 14-year-old kid cleaning tables, so eager to get a whole $30 bucks whenever we left. Once I got older, my father started getting me more involved, such as being a host, serving some tables and now giving me the responsibility of running the restaurant Mi Ranchito On Race.”
He said he has been running Mi Ranchito since Aug. 11, 2020, “while I was seeking a degree at Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. As of May 8, 2021, I graduated with two degrees (business administration and business management) with a minor in entrepreneurship.”
Jones said his experience with alcoholic beverages includes “serving drinks since the age of 19. ... I’ve started making a few drinks at the age of 21, also I’m familiar with the bar scene and the proper ABC regulations pertaining to alcohol.”
He said he believes having been “in the restaurant business a long time ... we have enough knowledge and experience in the restaurant industry to know how to properly serve our communities in a professional manner. We also have the background in order to provide the confidence into believing we will all do a good job as a whole.”
According to Arkansas Department of Finance and Administration spokesman Scott Hardin, there are 10 establishments currently permitted by the ABC Division to sell alcohol in White County.
“As it is a dry county, they are all private club permits,” Hardin said. “In order to obtain a private club permit, the local governing body (City Council or Quorum Court) must provide the applicant an ordinance of support for a private club application to be considered by ABC.
“If an application lacks an ordinance of support from the local governing body, the application will not proceed. This allows communities in dry counties to determine whether there is a need for additional establishments that offer alcohol.”
The state law concerning the application process was changed in 2017 to involved local governing bodies. Before Act 1112 went into effect, though, three Searcy restaurants applied for permits. The ABC granted those requests from the Rock House, El Almacen and Colton’s Steakhouse.
The first request passed by the council was in October 2018, when it allowed Rib Crib to advance its application to the ABC Division. The council has since OK’d requests from Guacamole Grill, Chili’s and two restaurants that went out of business, Whole Hog Cafe and Truth Table. The last permit was approved in 2019.
The other four private club permit holders in the county are the VFW posts in Searcy and Beebe, the Searcy Country Club and the Searcy Elks Lodge.