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Mena Arkansas News covering Polk County and the surrounding area

Photo by Jeri Pearson Approximately 50 people filled Mena City Council’s chamber and overflowed into city hall at the September meeting.

Ordinance passed by 3/2 vote

What does it mean for entertainment districts?

By Jeri Pearson

An ordinance passed by Mena City Council at the regularly scheduled September meeting garnered attention from residents and business owners both inside and outside the city limits.

Mayor Seth Smith allowed public comments after a motion was made to pass the resolution, however there is no law that requires municipalities to allow citizen comments.

Comments submitted to the council echoed those shared at a committee meeting held the week before, which focused on alcohol as a moral issue.

Comments at the council meeting were also shared by citizens that supported the availability of alcohol in the city limits.

However, the ordinance being considered did not pertain to the availability or consumption of alcohol.

The ordinance does not create or establish any permanent or temporary entertainment district. 

It does change the process of creating a temporary entertainment district from creating an ordinance to passing a resolution each time a temporary entertainment district is created. No wording in the ordinance guarantees or establishes rights of any business or property owner or organization to be granted an approval of a request for an entertainment district.

The ordinance does provide several provisions to protect the well being and public safety when districts are created and dictates perimeters for where districts can be located, along with other regulations those requesting a temporary district must follow.

Each time a municipality in the state of Arkansas passes an ordinance, a specific procedure during the meeting in which it is being considered must be followed, as well as specific documentation created and recorded for ordinances. 

However, resolutions passed by municipalities – though still requiring it to be considered and voted on in a public meeting and record keeping – are a more efficient process when considering time and records.

In July, the council considered and held a committee meeting and then passed an ordinance that created the first temporary entertainment district in Mena. Both meetings were reported on and the information made available to the public. 

With the passing of HB1228, now Act 874, during the 2021 legislative session, local municipalities now have the authority to create entertainment districts, even in a dry county.

According to Act 874, the city can “designate entertainment district in an area with established entities authorized sell alcoholic beverages; and for other purposes”

With The Ouachitas authorized to sell alcohol, this qualifies Mena to create an entertainment district, despite residing in a dry county.

The Ouachitas is not the only business in Mena that serves alcohol and businesses that do are also able to apply for a temporary entertainment district.

The Ouachita’s owner, Derek Campbell said he has received a vast amount of support.

“I think people understand what we are doing here. Everyone has been pleased with what we have to offer and what we are trying to bring to downtown.”

During council committee meetings on Tuesday, July 6, committee members, comprised of council members, voted unanimously to send a recommendation to the council to approve the creation of an entertainment district, however a temporary one, lasting two days, July 30 and 31 from 5 until 10 p.m.

Mena Mayor Seth Smith said such an endeavor would be beneficial to the city as a boon to tourism.

“The law allows us to create a temporary or permanent district,” Smith said in July. “The recommendation from the committee to the council is a temporary one, to try it out.”

Smith noted at the time that if the temporary entertainment district is a success, opportunities for additional temporary entertainment districts may come to fruition.

“It may open the door for a variety of events in the future,” Smith said. “Tourists are coming here. We need to give them a reason to stay here.”

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