City council amends entertainment district ordinance

Outside beverages are not allowed within the city's entertainment district and a recent amendment clarifies the restriction in the city ordinance that regulates the district.

Police Chief Kenny Hickman asked the El Dorado City Council to clean up language in Ordinance 1875, which was adopted in 2019 to establish an entertainment district in downtown El Dorado.

The ordinance is based on Arkansas Act 812, which was passed by state legislators in 2019 and allows cities to create designated entertainment districts in which alcohol may be consumed and carried publicly on streets and sidewalks.

Legislators have said the goal of the act is to:

Promote hospitality and tourism.

Establish areas of a city or town that highlight restaurant, entertainment and hospitality options.

Establish temporary or permanent, designated entertainment districts.

El Dorado Ordinance 1875 permits the public consumption and open-carry of alcoholic beverages on streets and sidewalks within the boundaries of the entertainment district from noon until 2 a.m. on Thursday, Friday, Saturday and holidays.

The district is roughly bordered by Pony and Locust Streets on the south end; Cleveland and West avenues on the west end; Hill Avenue between Pony and Oak streets on the east side: and Oak Street between Hill and Cleveland avenues to the north.

The western border mostly runs along Cleveland Avenue, with the exception of an area between Cedar and Locust streets that juts out to South West Avenue.

During an El Dorado City Council meeting on Sept. 27, Council Member Vance Williamson said Hickman had requested a change in Section 4 of Ordinance 1875, which does not allow alcoholic beverages that are purchased outside the entertainment district to be carried in open containers within the district.

The ordinance had included an exception that applied to "special events as permitted by the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and in compliance with all laws, rules, regulations ..."

The amendment deleted such language.

Hickman later told council members that he had met with Main Street El Dorado and MAD officials about the matter, explaining that the aim was to clarify the ordinance and not change its intent.

"The part that was stricken out, to me, seemed to be a little bit confusing ...," Hickman said.

A clause was added to denote that the ordinance falls under Act 812 and "later amendments that were codified as (Arkansas Code Annotated) 14-54-1412", which pertains to the creation and regulation of entertainment districts.

Previously, Act 812 limited entertainment districts to cities and towns that collect advertising and promotion taxes on hotels, motels, restaurants and similar businesses.

The city of El Dorado collects a 3% lodging tax that is administered by the El Dorado Advertising and Promotion Commission.

At the start of the year, state lawmakers removed the hospitality tax restriction from Act 812, authorizing communities that do not have such taxes in place to create entertainment districts.

El Dorado City Council members suspended the rules and read the new ordinance three times before casting a 7 - 1 vote in favor of its passage.

Council Member Frank Hash voted no on motions to suspend the rules and for final passage, arguing that the map, or Exhibit 1, that was included in the draft of the new ordinance does not clearly delineate the boundaries of the entertainment district.

"I don't know what other diagrams may be available but this is completely inadequate," Hash said.

Williamson acknowledged that the printed, paper version may not have had the best quality, but signage that is posted around the entertainment district clearly marks its boundaries and are easy to read.

Further, Hickman said a rendering of the map that is posted on the El Dorado Police Department's website is also clear.

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