By Jeri Pearson
Despite being a dry county, alcohol can legally be consumed on a city street during an event hosted by The Ouachitas.
Mena City Council voted in favor, with only one council person abstaining from voting, to allow the creation of a temporary entertainment district.
This action creates a “district” for the event, which will allow the consumption of alcohol at the corner of Martin Ave. and Mena Street, between The Ouachitas and Sanctified Design.
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 an entertainment district in an area with established entities authorized sell alcoholic beverages; and for other purposes.”
With The Ouachitas, located at 821 Mena Street, authorized to brew and sell alcohol, this qualifies Mena to create an entertainment district, despite residing in a dry county.
The Ouachitas opened the brewery portion of the enterprise on October 30, 2020.
The Ouachita’s owner, Derek Campbell said the first beer legally brewed and sold in the county was a momentous occasion, one for which the community showed 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,” Campbell said.
“The creation of the temporary entertainment district for the event is a result of the vision for an active downtown, offering things to do and a good environment, coming to fruition. I think community leaders and residents understand what we are trying to do for our community through tourism and we have received a lot of support.
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. “The recommendation from the committee to the council is a temporary one, to try it out.”
The entertainment district will be in effect for two days, July 30 and 31 from 5 until 10 p.m.
During the event, Ouachita Nights, musicians Ashtyn Barbaree and Randall Shreve will offer live entertainment on an outside stage, while guests at The Ouachitas can order food and beverages to consume while enjoying the entertainment.
Campbell said there are no age restriction to enjoy the event and his goal is to offer an environment everyone can enjoy. To consume an alcoholic beverage in the entertainment district, the beverage must be purchased from The Ouachitas during the event and only consumed in the designated area on Martin Ave.
Mena City Council included a provision when passing the ordinance for the temporary district that allows the Mena Police Chief or Mena Fire Chief to disband the district in the event of a threat to public safety and welfare.
Council members noted the event is scheduled to end both evenings before the city’s noise ordinance takes effect.
Smith noted if the temporary entertainment district is a success, opportunities for additional temporary entertainment districts may be considered.
“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.”