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The Benton City Council has approved an ordinance that outlines the procedures for the creation of both permanent and temporary arts and entertainment districts within the city.

The ordinance does not create the districts themselves, but outlines the guidelines and procedures for their creation. An arts and entertainment district would allow qualifying patrons to carry alcoholic beverages in the open.

During it’s April meeting on Monday, the council requested that Benton City Attorney Baxter Drennon give a summary overview of the ordinance rather than reading the multi-page document line by line.

According to Drennon, there are certain requirements set by the state that must be in place to allow for the creation of either a temporary or permeant entertainment district. Those requirements include:

• A county must allow for the sale of alcohol.

• A contiguous area zoned for commercial use that contains businesses such as restaurants, entertainment establishments, concert venues etc.

• An A&P tax.

“As of today, we meet those requirements,” Drennon said. “From there, what this ordinance does is it creates a procedure for the establishment of permanent arts and entertainment districts…”

According to Drennon, the ordinance to create the procedure adds a few additional qualifications that the must be met for the creation of a local district including requirements for contiguous area with three or more private properties permitted for on-premises consumption by the Alcohol Beverage Control Division and that temporary entertainment districts may only be created by the passing of a resolution by the city council. Signage informing patrons that the area is an entertainment district will also be required. Permanent districts would require an ordinance passed by the council.

“My expectation, if we do one of these, the ordinance would set out the specific days of the week and the times in which you could have open containers,” Drennon said. “There would also be guidance or requirements for how a person who would be participating in the district would be identified by either wristband or by cup. That’s how other cities have done this to protect against somebody bringing in beverages from outside the establishments that are in the district.”

Drennon said that temporary districts are often created for things such as festivals and that proposals for those events would need to be presented to the Benton Community Development Office to apply for a permit. The Benton Police Department and the Office of Emergency Management would also review those requests to make sure that there would not be a strain on first responders on those specific dates. If the request is approved by those bodies, the request would then be presented to the city council for approval.

Adding that the establishment of both permanent and temporary districts have been increasing in cities across the state, Drennon said that he was not aware of any problems coming up as a result of creating spaces like these.

“There is currently an arts and entertainment district set up,” Drennon said. “It’s the Palace Theatre District. It’s effectively, the Palace Theatre building and the outdoor area out there that’s in place and that would remain in place unless a new district was passed.”

Alderman Judd Hart asked for an explanation of the A&P tax requirement.

Drennon said that Arkansas Code dictates that an A&P tax be in place if a permanent or temporary district is to be created.

“We have to levy and collect a gross receipts tax on prepared food, beverage and lodging under Arkansas Code §25-75-602 and that’s the Arkansas Code section on A&P tax. The state code that allows for the creation of these requires that.”

The ordinance will go into effect in 90 days.