‘Final hearing’ May 16 in gun-shop lawsuit

A “final hearing” is scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday, May 16, in a lawsuit filed by a local business owner who was denied a conditional use permit to operate a gun and pawn shop inside the city.

In an April 3 letter, Carroll County Circuit Judge Scott Jackson informed attorneys Whitfield Hyman and Sara Monoghan of the hearing, which will be held in the courtroom of the Western District Courthouse in Eureka Springs.

Hyman represents Eureka Gun LLC and owner Keeling Grubb. Monoghan, an Arkansas Municipal League attorney, represents the defendants — the City of Eureka Springs and Mayor Butch Berry.

Hyman filed the lawsuit in July 2023, a month after the Eureka Springs City Council rejected Grubb’s appeal of the city planning commission’s denial of his request for a CUP.

In his complaint, Hyman argues that the city violated Grubb’s First Amendment right to free speech and interfered with his civil rights when it denied his request for a CUP.

The city council voted 4-2 on June 12 to deny Grubb’s CUP application to operate the gun and pawn shop inside the city limits. Grubb had appealed to the city council after a vote by the Eureka Springs Planning Commission on his application resulted in a 3-3 stalemate.

Monaghan filed a motion on Nov. 29 asking Jackson to dismiss the suit.

The council’s June 12 vote followed nearly an hour of public comments regarding Grubb’s application — mostly in opposition to a gun and pawn shop.

Council member Harry Meyer, who voted against Grubb’s application, objected to the fact that a sign in front of the business already said “gun and pawn.”

“I just hate to allow a CUP when somebody has already put the signs up without the permits to do so,” Meyer said. “It’s just an insult.”

Also voting against Grubb’s application were council members David Avanzino, Melissa Greene and Steve Holifield. Council members Terry Mc-Clung and Autumn Slane voted in favor of approving the CUP application.

In his original complaint, Hyman writes that after the council denied the conditional use permit, the city sent a letter to the plaintiffs “threatening revocation of their business license and other penalties, if the Plaintiff did not take down the signs at his business which state ‘Eureka Gun and Pawn.’ ” “The Plaintiff has a freedom of speech right under the Arkansas Constitution to place whatever lawful signage he wants at his property, and to call his business whatever he wants,” Hyman writes.

Opposition to a gun shop from residents and city council members is not a legal basis for denying Grubb’s application, the complaint says. “The City’s distaste for a certain type of lawful business is not a constitutionally legitimate basis for prohibiting the Plaintiffs from operating their business in Eureka Springs,” Hyman writes.

Grubb has said the business would sell high-end, collector- grade firearms.

In late January, Hyman offered to settle the suit if the city would pay more than $16,000 in attorney’s fees and grant Grubb the CUP for 20 years.