FORT SMITH – If you’ve ever been to the French Quarter of New Orleans or Beale Street in Memphis, you probably know that you can walk around with an alcoholic drink without fear of arrest. Now, Fort Smith City Directors are taking up the idea of allowing for similar areas within this community.

The Board looked over a draft of proposed legislation at Tuesday’s study session, and will move toward further action at upcoming city meetings. In a memo from City Administrator Carl Geffken, the legal definition of the idea was explained.

“Entertainment Districts are to be located in a ‘contiguous area’ in a part of a city that is ‘zoned or customarily used for commercial purposes’ that contains any number or combinations of restaurants, taprooms, taverns, entertainment establishments, hospitality establishments, music venues, theaters, art galleries, art studios, tourist destinations, distilleries, dance clubs, cinemas, or concert halls.”

The City Administrator said however that although you can carry a drink in your hand in these areas, you still have to follow the law.

“For clarification, the Act allows the consumption of alcoholic beverages on public rights-of-way within designated districts but does not relax or supersede any other rule or regulation regarding alcohol, including public intoxication,” Geffken noted in the memo.

With the recent uptick in events within the city, Geffken notes that two areas that come to mind for designation include downtown Fort Smith and the Chaffee Crossing Warehouse District.

“Any special events that would use the entire footprint of downtown could be accommodated by permitting temporary entertainment districts for such things as the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl or the Steel Horse Rally,” Geffken said. “The city could identify by ordinance a larger footprint encompassing all three areas mentioned above and additional downtown areas as a temporary Entertainment District that can be enabled through an administrative permit process. Such process would accommodate larger festivals, celebrations, or events such as the St. Patrick’s Day Pub Crawl or the Steel Horse Rally.”

Already in Arkansas, the city of Mountain Home has adopted a similar ordinance that will go into effect later in the month.


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