Fort Smith proposes change of entertainment zone status

A map showing the proposed downtown entertainment district in Fort Smith.

FORT SMITH — A new permanent entertainment district stands to come about in the heart of the state’s second-largest city.

The Fort Smith Central Business Improvement District Commission voted on Tuesday to approve and make a recommendation that the city Board of Directors adopt an ordinance establishing a permanent entertainment district downtown.

The city had already established a temporary entertainment district downtown via an ordinance adopted March 17. Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman said with this, one has to go through a process to enact it through the city’s “special event permit process” for a specific period of time. In contrast, the proposed permanent entertainment district, as its name suggests, would always be in place.

“And so, on the footprint that’s indicated as a permanent entertainment district, there wouldn’t be a need to go through that special event permit process to activate it,” Dingman said. “It’d be always activated.”

Dingman said the boundaries of the permanent entertainment district would be confined to within those of the larger temporary district, albeit with the addition of Brunwick Place on North 10th Street. The proposed area would essentially extend from Third Street along Garrison and Rogers avenues, in addition to North A Street, up to 13th Street, including Gateway Park. The Convention Center, certain hotels and the Bakery District would also be part of it.

Arkansas Act 812 of 2019 permits cities to establish permanent or temporary entertainment districts. The city board voted to adopt an ordinance establishing a permanent entertainment district at The HUB at Chaffee Crossing during its meeting Aug. 4. This had also previously been a temporary entertainment district established by the March 17 ordinance, and is to be the first permanent district designated in the city.

The ordinance establishing the proposed downtown permanent entertainment district states the hours of operation will be seven days a week, 10 a.m. to 11:59 p.m, with participating businesses to utilize a different colored wristband for each day. These wristbands will be issued upon verifying a patron is at least 21 years old, with patrons needing to wear one to carry their alcoholic beverage of choice throughout the district.

The ordinance also contains the same set of rules laid out for the permanent entertainment district at The HUB. Alcoholic beverages lawfully sold by an establishment within the proposed permanent entertainment district can be consumed within the district and adjacent public rights of way. All such beverages will be in a paper or plastic cup no larger than 16 ounces, with the name or logo of the establishment or event being commercially or professionally printed onto it.

Alcoholic beverages in bottles, glass or cans are not permitted for sale or consumption outside of establishments in the entertainment district, the ordinance states. Possession of more than one alcoholic beverage by a person at any time is forbidden, with the consumption or possession of one also not being permitted in or on a vehicle parked in any public right of way in the district. The district’s physical boundaries will be clearly designated with pavement markings and/or signs.

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