LITTLE ROCK – The Arkansas Legislature has passed a bill allowing municipalities across the state to create entertainment districts where prohibitions against public consumption of alcohol do not apply. The bill has been sent to Gov. Asa Hutchinson for signature.
Senate Bill 492 (SB492) defines "entertainment districts" as areas within towns or cities that are “customarily used for commercial purposes” and containing “any number and any combination of restaurants, taprooms, taverns, entertainment establishments, hospitality establishments, music venues, theaters, bars, art galleries, art studios, tourist destinations, distilleries, dance clubs, cinemas, or concert halls.”
Entertainment districts are areas of town where people can carry and drink alcohol on streets and sidewalks.
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,” Jerry Cox, president of Family Council, said before the bill’s passage.
Under current law, people caught doing this could face charges of public drinking and public intoxication. S.B. 492 changes state law and ultimately will lead to increased public drinking and public intoxication in our communities, said Cox.
“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.
Cox and Page urged supporters in emails to contact the governor’s office and ask him to veto the bill.
“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.
Cox provided a list to supporters how each state senator voted on the bill:
Voted for S.B. 492:
Sen. Bob Ballinger (R - Berryville)
Sen. Will Bond (D - Little Rock)
Sen. Ronald Caldwell (R - Wynne)
Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D - Little Rock)
Sen. Breanne Davis (R - Russellville)
Sen. Lance Eads (R - Springdale)
Sen. Joyce Elliott (D - Little Rock)
Sen. Jane English (R - North Little Rock)
Sen. Trent Garner (R - El Dorado)
Sen. Jim Hendren (R - Gravette)
Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R - Texarkana)
Sen. Ricky Hill (R - Cabot)
Sen. Keith Ingram (D - West Memphis)
Sen. Mark Johnson (R - Little Rock)
Sen. Greg Leding (D - Fayetteville)
Sen. Terry Rice (R - Waldron)
Sen. Bill Sample (R - Hot Springs)
Sen. David Wallace (R - Leachville)
Voted against S.B. 492:
Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R - Rogers)
Sen. Alan Clark (R - Lonsdale)
Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R - Beebe)
Sen. Scott Flippo (R - Bull Shoals)
Sen. Kim Hammer (R - Benton)
Sen. Bart Hester (R - Cave Springs)
Sen. Blake Johnson (R - Corning)
Sen. Bruce Maloch (D - Magnolia)
Sen. Jason Rapert (R - Conway)
Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R - Branch)
Sen. James Sturch (R - Batesville)
Sen. Larry Teague (D - Nashville)
Voted “present” S.B. 492 (Did not vote for or against the bill):
Sen. John Cooper (R - Jonesboro)
Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D - Pine Bluff)
Sen. Missy Irvin (R - Mountain View)
Did not vote on S.B. 492:
Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D - Crossett)
Sen. Matthew Pitsch (R - Fort Smith)