Fayetteville City Council Still Working Out Kinks For Entertainment District

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KFSM) — City leaders are still working to perfect a proposal for an entertainment district that could allow outdoor drinking at the Walton Arts Center and the downtown square.

The city council decided to hold the ordinance on first reading at Tuesday's (Aug. 20) meeting, citing a need for more input from bar owners.

The council will take up the ordinance again at its next meeting on Sept. 3.

If approved, the ordinance would allow outdoor drinking at special events with specific approval.

A city memo outlines potential "consumption of alcoholic beverages in public places ... such as the Fayetteville Farmer’s Market, First Thursday, and the Lights of the Ozarks, and special events permit with closed streets."

The proposed entertainment district largely mimics the city's Cultural and Arts District boundaries with modifications to eliminate residential areas barred from being included under state law, according to city documents.

Dept. Chief Mike Reynolds says Fayetteville police support the entertainment district, but the department has concerns because they already see a lot of issues with underage drinking.

“One way we feel like we can control that is if we can easily identify those that are lawfully able to consume alcoholic beverages and by doing so we feel like some type of identifiable marking," Reynolds said. "Something that we’ve seen success with in the past with the bar owners is wristbands. We’ve also seen marking put on their hands.”

The ordinance takes its cue from Act 812, which allows cities to establish either temporary or permanent districts in which patrons of bars and restaurants serving liquor could possess alcoholic beverages outside of those businesses, according to the Associated Press.

The bill that became Act 812 — "an act to promote hospitality and tourism" — was sponsored during the last legislative session by state Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, and state Rep. Sonia Barker, R-Smackover, AP reported.

Garner said the Power & Light District, the entertainment district in downtown Kansas City, Missouri, was one model that was discussed, "a family-friendly place that, at a certain time of night, they'll shut it off and allow alcoholic beverages in a very controlled, regulated place," according to AP.

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