Developer seeks permanent status for entertainment district at Chaffee Crossing

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 1,255 views 

An ordinance to allow for a permanent entertainment district at Chaffee Crossing is on the agenda of the Fort Smith Board of Directors meeting Tuesday (Aug. 4). The ordinance would replace a previous ordinance that created a temporary provision for the district.

The city of Fort Smith established a “temporary” entertainment district at The HUB at Chaffee Crossing when the board adopted an ordinance on temporary entertainment districts March 17. That ordinance allowed that The HUB at Chaffee Crossing could request the entertainment district through the city’s Special Event Permit process. Now, the developers of The HUB at Chaffee Crossing have requested that the entertainment district be modified and designated a permanent entertainment district.

“After working on layouts within and outside the restaurant and determining future marketing and sales plans, we feel that The HUB, its occupants and patrons would benefit from a Permanent Entertainment District Designation,” said Rod Coleman with ERC Holdings, the development company of The HUB at Chaffee Crossing. “Our plans include outside patio dining and quarterly block parties for the residents of The HUB and Providence Addition, and this would facilitate these activities while not having to apply 45 days in advance every month or so.”

Coleman said the change would give owners, tenants and visitors to Revel at The HUB to give Fort Smith a “unique venue to enjoy.” Daniel Mann, executive director and CEO of the Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority, said the permanent entertainment district designation would fit into the live, work, play feel of Chaffee Crossing and would benefit the HUB community.

“It will be a positive thing for the commercial, retail and entertainment in the area,” Mann said.

As long as the boundaries of the district are clearly marked and other rules and regulations are followed, the ordinance would allow that anyone buying alcoholic beverages at establishments in the entertainment district could take those beverages with them and “wander about the property within the boundaries of the district,” said Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman in a memo attached to the proposed ordinance.

“This will allow for the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages at outside events within the property/district. No Special Event Permit would be required for the entertainment district to be active; it would always be active,” the memo states.

The 2019 Arkansas General Assembly adopted Act 812, which makes it lawful for cities to designate “entertainment districts” where patrons can walk outside a bar or restaurant with an open container of alcohol for public consumption. The act intends to “promote hospitality and tourism by establishing areas of a city or town that highlight restaurant, entertainment, and hospitality options,” Dingman said in a 2019 memo.

State laws and city ordinances that “prohibit a person from possessing an alcoholic beverage outside of the establishment from which it was purchased do not apply within such entertainment districts,” the memo said. The act specifically allows for the consumption of alcohol in public when it is consumed within the parameters of a designated entertainment district. Though the act allows for public consumption of alcohol outdoors in these districts, it does not “relax or supersede” laws or regulations dealing with alcohol including public intoxication or minor in possession of alcohol.

There can be permanently designated and temporary districts in a city, Dingman said. Both districts have to be mapped by city ordinance, but temporary districts would only be activated during special instances. The entertainment districts, according to the act, should be in a “contiguous area” in a part of the city “zoned or customarily used for commercial purposes” where there are restaurants, taprooms, taverns, entertainment establishments, hospitality establishments, music venues, theaters, art galleries, art studios, tourist destinations, distilleries, dance clubs, cinemas, or concert halls.

The ordinance passed in March established temporary entertainment districts in downtown Fort Smith and the HUB at Providence in Chaffee Crossing through special events permits. If the proposed ordinance is adopted, it will be the first permanent entertainment district designated in Fort Smith.

An ordinance establishing a similar district is expected to come before the Springdale City Council Aug. 11 for a second reading. If approved as proposed, the Downtown Springdale Outdoor Dining District, which runs along Emma Avenue, between Shiloh and Water streets, and includes several adjacent blocks, between Grove and Emma avenues and Meadow and Johnson avenues, would be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Fayetteville has a similar district that opened July 22.

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