Springdale OKs entertainment zone


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Justin Davis places his lunch order Monday, August 10, 2020, with Jamie Wilkerson, owner of The Pits Meatery, at the food truck style restaurant in downtown Springdale. The Springdale City Council could decide on a downtown entertaiment district that would allow alcohol to be carried from restaurants and even into participating stores.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

SPRINGDALE — The City Council on Tuesday approved 5-3 a downtown entertainment district as a means to reinvigorate businesses hurt during the coronavirus shutdown.

Council members Mike Overton, Rick Evans and Jim Reed voted against the measure.

Beginning Friday, customers can buy beverages from the six bars and restaurants serving alcohol and carry their drinks as they walk, shop and gather in Turnbow Park, said Jill Dabbs, executive director of the Downtown Springdale Alliance.

The Outdoor Dining District will include Emma Avenue and a few blocks surrounding — an area the city already has targeted for revitalization and development.

Council members changed the ordinance as presented, choosing to make the district a six-month pilot project.

Dabbs said she will return with data to see whether the district meets its goal of building business. Mayor Doug Sprouse said the council can change the parameters of the district any time if trouble arises.

Jeff Brown, owner of the Odd Soul bar on Emma, said he and a lot of other business owners “have pinned a lot of hours and hope that downtown works.”

Council Member Kathy Jaycox asked how much money the district will bring to downtown businesses. Brown couldn’t say.

“We’ve been all but closed for six months,” he said. “We’re losing money. I ask that you kind of throw us a bone. We need help.”

Restaurants will serve drinks for the district from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Restaurant owners want to capture the Sunday brunch and weekday business lunches, and they want the hours to be consistent.

“The last thing restaurant owners need is one more thing they need to police,” said Brent Hale, owner of Big Sexy Food truck and Sammichlove on Emma.

Council Member Amelia Williams said residents she spoke with were concerned about the times alcohol could be carried around, especially the morning hours. Many were worried the family-friendly atmosphere of downtown would be limited.

Patsy Christie, director of the Planning Department, said the plan created for downtown Springdale also includes the Razorback Greenway, the Arts Center of the Ozarks, Turnbow Park and a reimagined Luther George Park.

“We had a lot of public input when we created the plan,” Christie said. “We tried to create something for everybody.”

“We’re not going to turn this into some sort of speak-easy in the community,” Jaycox said.

Restaurants will serve beverages in cups marked with the district’s logo, and businesses will announce their participation with stickers on their doors, Dabbs said.

Reed said he voted against the measure because personal convictions wouldn’t let him approve anything encouraging public intoxication.

“I’m not opposed to alcohol,” he said. “I just don’t want them carrying it around.”

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Patrons walk to Mr. Taco Loco restaurant Monday, August 10, 2020, on Emma Avenue in downtown Springdale. The Springdale City Council could decide on a downtown entertaiment district that would allow alcohol to be carried from restaurants and even into participating stores.
(NWA Democrat-Gazette/David Gottschalk)

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