To promote hospitality and tourism, Arkansas is allowing alcoholic open container possession within an approved Entertainment District (ED). Details of this law are outlined in the Arkansas Senate Bill 492 granting cities the right to establish one or more, permanent or temporary, Entertainment Districts. The bill amends the Arkansas Code 3-2-206 concerning the rules of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division making it legal for a person to possess an alcoholic beverage outside of an establishment that holds a permit for on-premises consumption, and from which the alcoholic beverage was purchased, as long as that person stays within a designated ED.
Eureka Springs City Council has wasted no time creating an ED Committee to begin consideration for its historic downtown area. Heading up the committee is alderman Bob Thomas. Other committee members are Stephen Rodgers of Nyx Café Restaurant Bar, Katie Hendrickson of the Planning Commission, Damon Henke of the Chamber of Commerce, Kendra Hughes of a Eureka retail store, Autumn Slane of the Grotto/Upstairs at the Grotto, Police Chief Brian Young, Keith Parnell a public representative, and Paul S. Johnson of Pine Mountain Village.
The committee has utilized ordinance wording from Little Rock to create its own six-page ordinance authorizing the creation of permanent and temporary EDs, establishing standards for their creation, and declaring an emergency to exist. The proposed ordinance provides the city with general standards for establishment of EDs, such as use of identification wristbands and uniform city-approved beverage containers.
The proposed ordinance states there will be days and hours that a person is permitted to possess or consume from an open alcoholic beverage container, and establishes fines for any violation of the ED rules up to $500 plus court/county costs. Violations are listed in the ordinance and include possessing or consuming from an open alcoholic beverage container in an ED that is not in a city-approved container or without an approved wristband.
While the mayor’s office will accept applications for temporary EDs with a nonrefundable fee of $100, applications will first be reviewed by both Public Works and the Police Department for various reasons such as safety of pedestrians and vehicular traffic, fire and police protection, sanitation and health facilities, etc.
If they approve, the mayor may grant or deny the application. If the mayor approves, he will recommend implementing a resolution through the approval process of city council. If Eureka Springs opts to establish a temporary or permanent ED, it must notify the Arkansas Beverage Control Board within 10 days of the issuance of a permanent or temporary entertainment district.
Because of October’s high tourism numbers, the ED committee submitted the proposed ordinance on August 12 and is rushing the approval of the ordinance. The committee asked council to suspend the rules and approve two readings in one meeting of the three needed to pass. Council approved two readings and the third is expected at the next council meeting.