Arkansas Senate bill would give local governments option to legalize public consumption of alcohol through designated ‘entertainment districts’

    March 26, 2019

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    LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Senate has passed a bill allowing municipalities across the state to create entertainment districts where prohibitions against public consumption of alcohol do not apply.

    Senate Bill 492 (SB492), which is currently before the Arkansas House of Representatives’ rules committee, defines entertainment districts as areas within towns or cities that are “customarily used for commercial purposes” and containing any number of “any number and any combination of restaurants, 17 taprooms, taverns, entertainment establishments, hospitality establishments, 18 music venues, theaters, bars, art galleries, art studios, tourist 19 destinations, distilleries, dance clubs, cinemas, or concert halls.”

    The bill states that cities, municipalities and incorporated towns that are located in wet counties and that collect taxes on prepared food and hotel and motel accommodations would be authorized to create and designate permanent or temporary entertainment district(s) within the areas under their jurisdiction.

    SB492 also states that all local governments that create said entertainment districts would be obligated to “set by ordinance 28 reasonable standards for the regulation of alcohol possession,” with the specified district.

    “Right now the closest places to Arkansas where this type of behavior is legal are Beale Street in Memphis and Bourbon Street in New Orleans,” said Jerry Cox, president of Family Council.

    “There is a reason that drinking alcoholic beverages is mostly confined by law to establishments. Bartenders and servers are trained to spot under aged persons and those who have over consumed. That level of scrutiny cannot be achieved in an entertainment district,” said Larry Page, executive director of the Arkansas Faith and Ethics Council.

    “Entertainment districts raise serious concerns about crime, drunk driving, and public safety. In other states, they have led to problems ranging from piles of litter on the sidewalks to drunken brawls in the streets,” said Cox.

    “Children will inevitably be present and exposed to public drinking. Who can favor that?” said Page. “If you are concerned with public drinking and underage drinking, please email your state representative anytime between now and noon, Thursday (March 28). Please respectfully ask him or her to oppose and vote against SB492.”

    Contact Caleb Yarbrough at caleb@arkansasbaptist.org.

    Across Arkansas