Mountain Home’s new entertainment district — the first of its kind in the state — will make its debut this evening (July 24). Mountain Home is believed to be the first city to enact an entertainment district. El Dorado recently approved its own entertainment district, and officials in Little Rock, Bentonville, Fayetteville, Hot Springs and Texarkana have all expressed interest in establishing similar districts.
Between the hours of 4:30 p.m. and midnight daily, patrons of the district can now leave a restaurant or bar with a single commercially branded paper or plastic cup of beer, wine or a mixed drink to be consumed in the boundaries of the district.
Mountain Home’s entertainment district is centered on its downtown area and runs from Hickory Street east to South Church Street and from 5th Street south to 8th Street. The district also includes part of South Main Street.
Certain government-owned properties like the Baxter County Courthouse, Mountain Home City Hall, Hickory Park or the Veterans Plaza are also excluded from the entertainment district.
Businesses presently selling alcohol inside the entertainment district include Clayton’s Downtown Grill on East 7th Street and Crush Studio on South Baker Street.
Alcohol vendors located inside the district would continue to be required to be licensed by the state’s Alcoholic Beverage Control Board and would answer to their authority.
The carryout cups used in the district will not exceed 16 fluid ounces in volume. No alcohol purchased outside of the entertainment district would be allowed in open containers inside the district.
A stack of carryout cups sits behind the counter Tuesday afternoon at Clayton's Downtown Grill. The cups will be used by patrons of the Mountain Home entertainment district, which begins operation tonight.
It would continue to be illegal for district patrons to possess an open can, bottle or glass container of alcohol. It would also be illegal for entertainment district patrons to drink alcohol inside of a parked motor vehicle.
District merchants have agreed to not sell alcohol in carryout containers on the nights that Mountain Home’s Friday Night Block Party is being held downtown. Merchants will instead begin using the carryout cups once the Block Party concludes each Friday around 9 p.m.
The Arkansas General Assembly approved legislation earlier this year permitting the creation of such entertainment districts across the state. Act 812 of 2019, sponsored by Sen. Trent Garner of El Dorado, allows municipalities to authorize creation of entertainment districts within commercially zoned areas that highlight dining, entertainment and hospitality options on a permanent or temporary basis.
The Mountain Home City Council approved the creation of the entertainment district in late June in a 5-3 vote with Mayor Hillrey Adams casting the decisive fifth vote. Council members voting in favor of the entertainment district were Jim Bodenhamer, Paige Evans, Bob Van Haaren and James Whalen, while Jennifer Baker, Eva Frame and Don Webb each voted against the proposal. Council member Wayne Almond was absent at that meeting.
Act 812, like a slew of other laws approved in the last legislative session, did not go into effect until today, preventing the entertainment district from officially operating before then.