Downtown Fayetteville Businesses Say They’re Ready If Entertainment District Ordinance Passes

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark (KFSM) — The Fayetteville City Council tabled the decision to create an entertainment district downtown that would have allowed open containers of alcohol during special events.

A new Arkansas law passed in the last legislative session that permits cities to create entertainment districts that would allow people to continue drinking their alcoholic beverages after leaving the bar or restaurant.

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 general manager of JJ's on Dickson Street says his business can handle it.

“I think we could prepare for it, I think we are prepared. Just because we see some of the busiest days on game days and Bikes Blues [and BBQ], that’s a big one. We would just have to take some extra precautions on people coming in and just managing their intoxication levels," said Richard Tolleson.

He's worried about over-serving people, but says if police are there during the events that allow open container to help, it should be a good thing.

Sgt. Anthony Murphy with Fayetteville Police says their department is used to it.

“This time of year, we have an event almost every weekend," Murphy said. "So our officers are used to working beer gardens and working events. They’re used to blending in with the crowd and mingling with our citizens, because our officers are citizens of this city and they like being in those environments."

Murphy also said the new ordinance would have to require wristbands or markings for those drinking, so police can more easily identify underage drinkers. Roads where people will walk with open containers will also be blocked.

“We’re going to make it easier on officers in that roads will have to be blocked off, which will make it an event area, and within that event they’ll be able to walk around with those beverages, and if they have arm bands on, that would help our officers distinguish who is over age and who is underage," said Murphy.

Tolleson welcomes the change to the area. He said it may help liven up the city.

“Not quite Bourbon Street, definitely a smaller scale, but something similar to that. You know people go to cities like Austin or New Orleans and that’s what they talk about. It would be cool to have Dickson Street talked about like that," said Tolleson.

5NEWS reached out to the United Methodist Church on Dickson Street for their thoughts, and an administrator said there had been no formal discussions. It’s uncertain if it will affect the church, the administrator said, but they are “keeping an eye on it.”

The Fayetteville City Council said they will spend the next two weeks discussing the proposal with bar owners in the proposed entertainment district. They say there will be a decision announced at their next meeting.

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