TEXARKANA, Ark. — Texarkana is one of several Arkansas cities considering creating designated areas where outdoor drinking will be allowed following the passage of a new state law that changes alcohol regulations.
The Arkansas Legislature this week approved a bill that waives existing rules prohibiting public drinking within entertainment districts, the Texarkana Gazette reported. Gov. Asa Hutchinson will sign the bill into law, a spokesman for the governor said.
An entertainment district is defined as a contiguous area that's zoned for commercial purposes and contains entertainment venues and tourist attractions including restaurants, bars, art galleries, concert halls and dance clubs.
The measure will allow the creation of areas similar to Beale Street in Memphis, Tennessee, and Bourbon Street in New Orleans, where people can walk between different establishments with alcoholic beverages. Public intoxication and disorderly conduct remain illegal.
Texarkana city staff will present plans for an entertainment district to the Planning Commission next week, City Manager Kenny Haskin said.
"Plans and the necessary city ordinance will include reasonable standards for regulation of alcoholic beverages within the district and safeguards for its citizens," he said.
Entertainment districts across the country have helped rejuvenate cities, spur economic growth and improve cities' images, Haskin said.
"Proponents have said the districts become central gathering places, give their cities a heartbeat, become major drivers of economic development, and provide much needed jobs," he said.
The change could help draw more entrepreneurs downtown and improve the area's nightlife, said George Dodson, the co-owner of Hopkins Icehouse, a downtown bar.
"Now all of a sudden downtown Texarkana, Arkansas, might be a little more attractive than somewhere else because it will be labeled as an entertainment district," he said.
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