Axios Northwest Arkansas

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Welcome to a new week. Happy Monday!

🌧️ Showers likely today with highs in the mid-70s.

πŸŽ‚ Happy birthday to Axios NW Arkansas member Nick Castin!

Today's newsletter is 784 words β€” a 3-minute read.

1 big thing: Rural hospitals struggle

Map showing share of rural hospitals in each state with negative operating margins in 2024. Nationally, 50% of rural hospitals have negative operating margins. The states with the highest share of rural hospitals operating at a loss are Kansas (89%), New York (83%) and Wyoming (83%) while Utah had the lowest share, at 16%.
Data: Chartis; Map: Alice Feng/Axios

71% of rural hospitals in Arkansas are running in the financial red, according to a recent report from health care consultancy Chartis. The same is true for half of America's rural hospitals.

Why it matters: Millions of Americans, especially those in rural states like Arkansas, rely on local hospitals for emergency and other forms of care.

  • The report also points out: "Within many rural communities, the hospital is often among the largest employers and thus a major contributor to the local economy."

Driving the news: While COVID-era government aid helped alleviate financial pressure on rural hospitals, such support has largely ended.

  • The growth of Medicare Advantage enrollment is also taking a toll.
  • "The Medicare alternative's popularity with seniors is cutting into a typically better funding source for rural hospitals β€” traditional Medicare β€” as hundreds of rural hospitals face financial calamity," Axios' Arielle Dreher reported last August.

Stunning stat: The jump from 43% of rural hospitals operating in the red last year to 50% this year is the single largest change in percentage in a one-year period that Chartis reports seeing.

What they're saying: "When you see all of this negative pressure, what you're really talking about is loss of access in the places where we need it β€” one could arguably say, most," says Michael Topchik, partner and executive director of the Chartis Center for Rural Health.

  • He points to problems like suicide, opioid overdoses, alcohol-related deaths and more that plague rural America in particular.
  • "I'm focusing on data on the providers, on the hospitals. But in the end, what we're really talking about is the communities served β€” and these are the most vulnerable communities in America."

2. Monday Munchies: Waldo's Chicken and Beer

Bone-in fried chicken. Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

Worth here. I recently swore off chains, but when fried chicken comes into play, well, I'll probably try it.

The vibe: Waldo's Chicken and Beer isn't where you go if you're counting carbs or calories or sodium or anything.

  • This is where you go after a long weekend hike or an all-day fishing excursion and feel like a guilty culinary reward.
  • Bottles of ketchup and hot sauce are on each table, along with, thankfully, a napkin dispenser.
  • And yes, there's a full bar.

Dig in: Bone-in chicken isn't served most places anymore, but Waldo's offers a nice mix of it, along with tenders and some salads.

  • The quarter chicken β€” all-white meat with two sides (mac and cheese and potato wedges) and a drink β€” was $16.

The verdict: Yes.

  • Wedges are wedges and I'm never impressed, but the mac and cheese was nice and sharp.
  • The chicken is top-shelf, homestyle comfort food. The wing and breast were large and juicy β€” this is not paltry poultry.

The intrigue: A choice of about a dozen sauces complement the meals. The Rooster (a sweet/spicy chili pepper sauce) will be on my mind for a long time. It's what will actually pull me back to Waldo's someday.

Check it out: 700 S.E. Walton Boulevard in Bentonville. Open 11am-9pm Monday-Saturday and 11am-8pm Sunday.

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3. Kitchen Sink: News truckin'

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

πŸ• The last Damgoode Pies, which was in downtown Fayetteville, has closed. (Fayetteville Flyer)

βš–οΈ Former Democratic candidate for governor Chris Jones filed a defamation lawsuit against the president of the Arkansas Senate, Bart Hester, for a post on X that claimed Jones was taking a "Pro Hamas Terrorist position." (Arkansas Advocate)

🎰 Arkansas casinos made a net win of $177.8 million for the first quarter of 2024, up almost $1 million compared to the same quarter last year. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette)

4. Your week ahead: Art exhibit, trivia, game nights

"Dark Waters," a photographic art exhibit, is on display at The Momentary this week. Photo: Courtesy of The Momentary

Make plans for a weeknight.

❓ Go to trivia night β€” Try Bentonville Brewing on Monday, Ozark Natural Foods on Wednesday in Fayetteville or Rendezvous Junction Brewing, also on Wednesday, in Rogers.

πŸ“Έ See a new art exhibit β€” "Dark Waters" by Kristine Potter is on display at The Momentary in Bentonville. The collection of photographs focuses on the characters of murder ballads β€” songs that often end in death and despair. It's free and available until Oct. 13.

β™Ÿ Play games β€” It's game night today and Family Feud night Wednesday at The Botanical in Bentonville; game night Tuesday at Fayetteville Beer Works; and chess today and bingo Tuesday at Rendezvous Junction Brewing in Rogers.

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Illustration: Andrew Caress/Axios

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5. πŸ₯© ICYMI: Wright on

Photo: Worth Sparkman/Axios

The best barbecue in the U.S. is NWA's own Wright's, according to reviewers on Yelp!.

πŸ’­ Worth's thought bubble: Steuart Walton can boost Bentonville, Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art can bring in top-tier exhibits and the Sanders administration can tout outdoor rec, but it'll be killer barbecue that keeps 'em coming back.

Thanks to Fadel Allassan for editing and James Gilzow for copy editing this newsletter.

πŸšΆβ€β™€οΈ Alex is going for a walk at Lake Atalanta in Rogers.

πŸ‡―πŸ‡΅ Worth started watching "Shōgun."