NLR Mulls Public Drinking District

KARK 4 News reported this week that officials in North Little Rock are mulling whether or not to permit public drinking in the city’s Argenta District under the state’s new “entertainment district” law.

Act 812 of 2019 by Sen. Trent Garner (R – El Dorado) and Rep. Sonia Barker (R – Smackover) lets cities create “entertainment districts” where open containers of alcohol can be carried and consumed on streets and sidewalks.

Entertainment districts essentially are areas where public drinking and public intoxication are legal. Under this law, an entertainment district could be temporary—such as at an event or festival—or it could be permanent.

Public drinking in entertainment districts raises serious concerns about public safety. Cities like Memphis and New Orleans have had significant problems with violence in their entertainment districts.

North Little Rock Mayor Joe Smith told KARK he doesn’t want to “turn our downtown entertainment district into Bourbon Street.”

Unfortunately, that’s going to be tough to do if the city opts to permit public drinking when Act 812 takes effect later this summer.

Read more here.

Senate Narrowly Passes Bill Letting Cities Permit Public Drinking

A little before 2:00 PM Wednesday the Arkansas Senate passed S.B. 492, a bad bill that lets cities and municipalities in wet counties create entertainment districts.

Entertainment districts are areas of town where people can carry and drink alcohol on streets and sidewalks.

Under current law, people caught doing this could face charges of public drinking and public intoxication. S.B. 492 changes state law and ultimately will lead to increased public drinking and public intoxication in our communities.

The bill received only 18 votes in the Arkansas Senate, which is the bare minimum it needed to pass. It now goes to Governor Hutchinson’s desk.

Below is a breakdown of how the Arkansas Senate voted on this bad bill.

Voted FOR S.B. 492

Sen. Bob Ballinger (R – Berryville)
Sen. Will Bond (D – Little Rock)
Sen. Ronald Caldwell (R – Wynne)
Sen. Linda Chesterfield (D – Little Rock)
Sen. Breanne Davis (R – Russellville)
Sen. Lance Eads (R – Springdale)
Sen. Joyce Elliott (D – Little Rock)
Sen. Jane English (R – North Little Rock)
Sen. Trent Garner (R – El Dorado)
Sen. Jim Hendren (R – Gravette)
Sen. Jimmy Hickey (R – Texarkana)
Sen. Ricky Hill (R – Cabot)
Sen. Keith Ingram (D – West Memphis)
Sen. Mark Johnson (R – Little Rock)
Sen. Greg Leding (D – Fayetteville)
Sen. Terry Rice (R – Waldron)
Sen. Bill Sample (R – Hot Springs)
Sen. David Wallace (R – Leachville)

Voted AGAINST S.B. 492

Sen. Cecile Bledsoe (R – Rogers)
Sen. Alan Clark (R – Lonsdale)
Sen. Jonathan Dismang (R – Beebe)
Sen. Scott Flippo (R – Bull Shoals)
Sen. Kim Hammer (R – Benton)
Sen. Bart Hester (R – Cave Springs)
Sen. Blake Johnson (R – Corning)
Sen. Bruce Maloch (D – Magnolia)
Sen. Jason Rapert (R – Conway)
Sen. Gary Stubblefield (R – Branch)
Sen. James Sturch (R – Batesville)
Sen. Larry Teague (D – Nashville)

Voted “Present” on S.B. 492 (Did Not Vote For or Against It)

Sen. John Cooper (R – Jonesboro)
Sen. Stephanie Flowers (D – Pine Bluff)
Sen. Missy Irvin (R – Mountain View)

Did Not Vote on S.B. 492

Sen. Eddie Cheatham (D – Crossett)
Sen. Matthew Pitsch (R – Fort Smith)

Kroger Expands Wine Sales

Over the weekend one of our staff members captured this photo at a Kroger store in the North Little Rock area. It shows the expanded wine selection the store now sells under a law the Arkansas Legislature passed last spring.

According to our staff member, this section of the store “was all baby food and diapers, from one end down the other” before Kroger converted it into a wine section.

Why Does This Matter?

Many are concerned that this could set the stage for legislation down the road letting grocery stores in Arkansas sell hard liquor the way grocery stores in states like Missouri do.

Prior to this year, grocery stores in wet counties were generally limited to selling a few wines produced by small farms in Arkansas. Act 508 of 2017 lets grocery stores sell wines from other states, like California.

Last spring we said Act 508 would simply mean more alcohol in stores where children and families shop. It appears that prediction has come true.