The Pine Bluff City Council’s Development and Planning Committee recently voted to allow people to drink alcoholic beverages in an outdoor entertainment district as long as the drinks were bought from establishments in the district that hold permits for on-premises consumption.
The full council must vote on the measure before it’s approved.
State Senator Trent Garner of El Dorado was the primary sponsor of a new state law allowing the practice of outdoor alcohol consumption in designated entertainment districts.
In 2017, the Pine Bluff City Council adopted a resolution creating the Delta Rhythm and Bayous Cultural and Entertainment District in downtown Pine Bluff.
The district would run from 2nd Avenue to 4th Avenue from State Street to Main Street and, according to the resolution, the city “affirms a commitment to work with the Delta Rhythm and Bayous Alliance, along with other community groups and the general public to develop a strategic plan in the proposed district which will encourage the installation of public art relating the narrative of music and arts accomplishments in the Greater Jefferson County area and the broader Delta Rhythm and Bayous region; develop outdoor live music venues which can serve as an ideal area for festivals accommodating multiple vendors and attract permanent cultural institutions and entertainment institutions in the area.”
In late June, Mountain Home in north Arkansas became the first city to approve allowing people to drink outside of businesses that are in an entertainment district.
Now, people in the district can walk around the entertainment district between 4:30 p.m. and midnight with alcohol in branded plastic cups purchased at restaurants and bars in the district. The cups cannot exceed 16 fluid ounces.
It's still illegal for district patrons to possess an open can, bottle or glass container of alcohol. Also, it's illegal for entertainment district patrons to drink alcohol inside a parked vehicle.
The introduction of the change isn't expected to cause major problems, police in Mountain Home said.
"I can probably say to expect a problem here and there, but I don't see it as something we can't handle," Police Chief Carry Manue said.
Mountain Home Mayor Hillrey Adams said an advisory committee will help supervise the activities of the entertainment district. Businesses or organizations interested in holding public events downtown would need to acquire approval from the committee. Any alcohol vendors are still required to receive the appropriate state Alcohol Beverage Control Board permits and licenses.
Certain government-owned properties like the Baxter County Courthouse, Mountain Home City Hall, Hickory Park or the Veterans Plaza are also excluded from the entertainment district.
In other business, the Development and Planning Committee rejected bids from Charhonda Howard, who was seeking to buy five lots in the 5500 block of West 14th Avenue and two lots in the 5300 block of West 7th Avenue, that are owned by the city.
Howard offered to pay $300 for the lots on West 14th Avenue, which are located between Oakwood Road and Dearborn Street and adjacent to three other lots owned by the city. She offered $150 for the two lots on West 7th Avenue which are located between Hutchinson and Young Streets.
Committee members Glen Brown Jr. and Win Trafford told Mitzi Ruth from the Inspection and Zoning Department to go back to Howard and suggest she make a more realistic offer and consider acquiring all the available lots in the block on West 14th Avenue instead of just a part of them.
Ruth said that Howard indicated that if she was able to purchase the properties, she planned to put trailers on them.