ES council defers vote on standards for entertainment district

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

By Samantha Jones

The Eureka Springs City Council is still considering a proposed ordinance setting the standards for an entertainment district.

On Monday, Aug. 26, the proposed ordinance came to the table for a third and final reading. Alderman Terry McClung moved to read the proposed ordinance for a third time by title only, but the motion died for lack of a second. The proposed ordinance would set rules and regulations to establish temporary and permanent entrainment districts in Eureka Springs. Public drinking would be allowed in these districts.

The council went on to discuss the proposed ordinance, with alderwoman Mickey Schneider saying she didn’t think an entertainment district belongs in Eureka Springs.

“Just because it works well in another town doesn’t mean it’s going to work here,” Schneider said. “We’re the only town involved in this with hilly, curvy roads. We’re the only town that has one street going through town.”

Schneider continued, “You shut that down or you get a bunch of people drinking and stepping out into the road and stuff –– what are our visitors supposed to do? They don’t know where to go if you shut down the road. This is a very dangerous situation.”

McClung declared point of order and said the proposed ordinance doesn’t establish any entertainment districts.

“It’s an enabling ordinance,” McClung said. “It’s not anything specific to any district.”

“If you enable it, you can go further,” Schneider said.

“You’d have to pass a separate ordinance,” McClung said.

“And if you don’t pass this one,” Schneider said, “you don’t have to go to a separate ordinance.”

Alderman Bob Thomas, who served as pro tempore in Mayor Butch Berry’s absence, ruled the point of order was valid.

“The enabling ordinance doesn’t mention streets,” Thomas said. “It doesn’t mention times. It doesn’t mention anything. It’s an enabling ordinance. It does not set up an entertainment district.”

Alderwoman Susan Harman asked if the council could defer the proposed ordinance to the next meeting and Thomas said that’s possible. Kendra Hughes, who represented the Entertainment District Committee, said the proposed ordinance wouldn’t create any entertainment district in Eureka Springs.

“On the committee, I’m a representative of the downtown merchants. We have more than 100 members of that group,” Hughes said. “So far, I’m not getting much resistance to this, especially the enabling ordinance. You don’t create any problems here. All you do is give yourselves options.”

Alderman Harry Meyer said he made a mistake voting to approve the proposed ordinance on first and second readings at the council’s Aug. 13 meeting. He’s since heard from bar owners, Meyer said, who fear an entertainment district would be expensive.

“They said they don’t want people walking into their shop with a drink and maybe spilling it,” Meyer said. “They think it’s going to cost them more money. I don’t think this is going to bring more business to Eureka Springs and I think we ought to just wait and watch Little Rock to see what they’re doing.”

“That’s why this ordinance is actually a benefit,” Hughes said.

“No, it’s not,” Meyer said.

“This does not establish anything,” Hughes said. “You say you want to wait to see what happens. That’s what this ordinance does. Any bar owners who don’t want to be part of this can opt out.”

McClung moved to postpone the proposed ordinance to the council’s next meeting and the council agreed to do so.

Also at the meeting, the council approved an ordinance adding aggregate as a material for sidewalk repair on a third and final reading. The council approved an ordinance vacating an alley east of Kimberling Alley on a third and final reading and approved a proposed ordinance raising the parking meter rate for special events on a second reading.

The council’s next regular meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 9, at The Auditorium.

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