SPRINGDALE -- The City Council on Tuesday approved, 5-3, a downtown entertainment district as a means to reinvigorate businesses hurt during the covid-19 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 -- as it will be called in Springdale -- will include Emma Avenue and a few blocks surrounding -- an area the city already has targeted for revitalization and development.
The 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 if the district meets its goal to build 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."
Councilwoman Kathy Jaycox asked how much money this district will bring to downtown businesses.
Brown couldn't say. "We've been all but closed for six months. We're losing money. I ask that you kind of throw us a bone. We need help."
Council members and restaurant owners during the meeting worked to set hours for the district.
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 to 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, the 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.
"And maybe if the business people take people to lunch down there, they will realize what downtown Springdale has to offer," she said.
Restaurants will serve the beverages in cups marked with the district's logo, businesses will announce their participation with stickers on their doors, Dabbs said.
Reed said he voted against the measure because his personal convictions wouldn't let him approve anything encouraging public intoxication.
"I'm not opposed to alcohol. I just don't want them carrying it around," he said.
Outdoor Dining District
When: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday,
10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday to Sunday
Where: Emma Avenue, downtown Springdale
Laurinda Joenks can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @NWALaurinda.