TOP 10 OF 2019 | Honorable Mention: ‘A great thing’: Entertainment district redefines downtown



A sign and a green stripe painted on the pavement mark the border of Texarkana, Arkansas’ new entertainment district Tuesday, Oct. 15, 2019, at the corner of East Third Street and North State Line Avenue. A new law passed during the recent state legislative session allowed the city to establish the district, where outdoor alcohol consumption from open containers is allowed.
Karl Richter
/ Texarkana Gazette.

TEXARKANA, Ark. — The city took advantage of a new law this year to create a downtown zone where drinking alcohol outdoors is allowed.

City officials and business owners celebrated the entertainment district — informally named The Railyard — as a new beginning for downtown Texarkana and envisioned it becoming a tourist destination.

The entertainment district opened in October with prominent signs and green stripes painted on the pavement marking its boundaries.

Open consumption of alcohol is allowed in roughly 14 blocks of downtown Sundays from 11 a.m. to midnight and Mondays through Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Passed by the Arkansas General Assembly in April, the new law allows cities to create entertainment districts with their own alcohol-possession rules, and it waives existent rules that prohibit public drinking within such areas.

Establishments in the district licensed to sell alcohol may allow customers age 21 and over to leave with an open container. No one may enter any business with an open container.

All state alcohol regulations remain in effect, including that no open containers may be carried out from liquor stores, no open containers are allowed in any motorized vehicles and underage drinking is illegal.

With input from the Police Department and Fire Department, the city Planning Commission will prepare a review report on the district in June 2020 and again in January 2021, and annually thereafter.

Bentonville, El Dorado, Fayetteville, Little Rock, Mountain Home and Pine Bluff are among Arkansas cities that have established or are considering similar entertainment districts.

George Dodson, co-owner of Hopkins Ice House on East Third Street, which is in the district, thanked the city Board of Directors for passing the measure during a September meeting.

“It’s going to be a great thing,” Dodson said.

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