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story.lead_photo.caption This map shows the boundaries of a proposed entertainment district, where outdoor drinking would be allowed, in downtown Texarkana, Ark. (Staff graphic by Jason Hopkins)

TEXARKANA, Ark. — A revised entertainment district ordinance likely will include more specific rules after concerns were raised during a city workshop meeting Tuesday.

Details such as the placement of trash receptacles and what kind of open containers will be allowed were among those brought up by Ward 6 Director Terri Peavy, who said she requested the meeting in response to constituent feedback. Mayor Allen Brown and members of the Board of Directors and the Planning Commission attended.

At issue is a large portion of downtown that under a new state law would be designated an entertainment district where outdoor consumption of alcohol from open containers would be allowed, with restrictions. The idea is to stimulate downtown culture and business by letting visitors move about with drinks in hand.

An ordinance that would create the district came before the Board on Aug. 5, and Peavy requested the workshop to answer questions about exactly how the plan would work.

Among the issues raised were the hours in which entertainment district rules would be in effect, which Peavy called "very, very generous" by contrast with shorter hours enacted for similar districts in El Dorado, Mountain Home and Little Rock. The current plan is for the district's rules to be in effect according to state law hours of alcohol service: 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday.

Planning commissioners responded that the hours had been decided in consultation with the Police Department and downtown business owners and are meant to be enabling rather than restrictive.

Peavy also expressed concern that the inclusion of the Rock House liquor store in the district would make it easier to break open container law. But the draft ordinance specifies that no existing state law, including the prohibition of taking open containers out of liquor stores, will be canceled by the entertainment district.

Regarding any potential garbage problem, the city Public Works Department agreed to develop a plan for trash can placement and regular emptying. Whether a specific kind of cup should be used to make obvious when someone is carrying a legal open container also came up.

Moving forward, the Board plans to table the current ordinance so that a revision can be drafted, including more specifics such as the garbage plan, as well as a provision for an annual review of how the entertainment district is performing.

Planning Commissioner Adger Smith addressed general concerns that creating the district would bring anything unsavory downtown.

"This is an entertainment district, not a drunk and disorderly district," Smith said, adding that any rules proving to be unworkable can be changed in the future.

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