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Entertainment districts to again be discussed by Fort Smith Board

Act 812 makes it lawful for cities to designate “entertainment districts” where patrons can walk outside a bar with an open container.
Credit: Talk Business and Politics

FORT SMITH, Ark. — Fort Smith city directors will take a look at entertainment districts at the March 17 regular board of directors meeting. Directors pondered entertainment districts during a July 9 board study session but have not passed any ordinances.

The 2019 Arkansas General Assembly adopted Act 812, which makes it lawful for cities to designate “entertainment districts” where patrons can walk outside a bar or restaurant with an open container of alcohol for public consumption. The act intends to “promote hospitality and tourism by establishing areas of a city or town that highlight restaurant, entertainment, and hospitality options,” stated a July memo on the districts from Fort Smith Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman.

State laws and city ordinances that “prohibit a person from possessing an alcoholic beverage outside of the establishment from which it was purchased do not apply within such entertainment districts,” the memo said. The act specifically allows for the consumption of alcohol in public when it is consumed within the parameters of a designated entertainment district. Though the act allows for public consumption of alcohol outdoors in these districts, it does not “relax or supersede” laws or regulations dealing with alcohol including public intoxication or minor in possession of alcohol.

There can be permanently designated and temporary districts in a city, Dingman said. Both districts have to be mapped by city ordinance, but temporary districts would only be activated during special instances. The entertainment districts, according to the act, should be in a “contiguous area” in a part of the city “zoned or customarily used for commercial purposes” where there are restaurants, taprooms, taverns, entertainment establishments, hospitality establishments, music venues, theaters, art galleries, art studios, tourist destinations, distilleries, dance clubs, cinemas, or concert halls.

RELATED: Downtown Fort Smith Leaders Discuss Designated Public Alcohol Areas

RELATED: Fayetteville City Council Still Working Out Kinks For Entertainment District

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