Downtown Springdale district would allow outdoor consumption of alcohol

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 2,020 views 

Map shows the proposed entertainment district in downtown Springdale.

Downtown Springdale could soon have an entertainment district to allow those who are at least 21 to consume alcoholic beverages while within its boundaries.

Springdale City Council heard Tuesday (July 28) the first reading of an ordinance to establish the district. The ordinance is expected to come before the city council Aug. 11 for a second reading. If approved as proposed, the district would be open daily from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fayetteville has a similar district that opened July 22.

The nonprofit group Downtown Springdale Alliance supported the measure to establish the Downtown Springdale Outdoor Dining District as a “boost for our downtown economy during the COVID-19 pandemic and a safe outdoor dining environment for our community,” according to a news release.

Arkansas law allows cities to create such districts, and the pandemic has “helped move forward the development of the Downtown Outdoor Dining District,” the release shows. In 2019, Sen. Trent Garner, R-El Dorado, sponsored a bill that became Act 812, allowing for the districts.

“Without the designation of an entertainment district, the consumption of alcohol in any public place is prohibited by state law,” City Attorney Ernest Cate said. State law was amended to allow for consumption of alcohol in the districts, “so long as the standards/rules of the entertainment district are followed,” he added.

Businesses inside the district can offer outdoor dining and allow customers to carry and consume alcoholic beverages within it. Participating businesses must have a sign in their window indicating they are part of the district.

Jill Dabbs, executive director for Downtown Springdale Alliance, said the district would allow people to purchase an alcoholic beverage from one of the six downtown establishments that are licensed to sell alcohol and to carry it out of the business. People could take the beverage into other businesses that participate in the district, such as a restaurant that doesn’t serve alcohol or retail shops, she said.

“This will also allow the retail stores to do sip and shop nights,” Dabbs said. “You could have a glass of wine and go shopping.”

Only drinks purchased within the district and in a designated cup will be allowed. People cannot bring alcoholic beverages into the district. Dabbs noted the district would not go into effect until the designated cups are delivered to the establishments selling alcoholic beverages. The Downtown Springdale Alliance will complete the branding and cover the initial cost of the cups, window clings and sidewalk stickers. The cups, which are about 11 cents each, will become a pass-through expense for restaurants, she said.

Between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. daily, restaurants, bars, breweries and vendors at special events in the district would be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages that may be carried out of the establishment and consumed within the district as long as the beverages are in the cup that’s provided by a participating business in the district, according to the proposed city ordinance.

The Springdale Public Events Committee could review and recommend expansion of the district. The committee also can exclude Walter Turnbow Park or Shiloh Square during specific times. Signs will be placed on the sidewalk to designate the district borders.

Restaurants and bars must not allow customers to carry from their establishments alcoholic beverages that are in glass containers. People carrying alcoholic beverages in glass containers will be violating the law if they have them at Walter Turnbow Park, Shiloh Square, on the streets, sidewalks, rights-of-way and parking lots in the district, the ordinance shows. People also cannot carry out of the district any open or unfinished alcoholic beverage, whether in the approved container.

The district runs along Emma Avenue, between Shiloh and Water streets, and includes several adjacent blocks, between Grove and Emma avenues and Meadow and Johnson avenues. The latter segment includes Walter Turnbow Park and Shiloh Square. The district extends east to Commercial Street and also spans the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad crossing at Emma Avenue before coming to an end at Emma Avenue and Water Street.

Dabbs said the district includes all of the downtown establishments that have a license to sell alcohol.

If the district is established, a report would be prepared for the city council to show metrics and outcomes of the district after six months of operation, Dabbs said.