Last night the Mountain Home City Council narrowly passed a city ordinance legalizing public drinking in certain areas of downtown, with Mayor Hillrey Adams casting the deciding vote on the issue. The ordinance will take effect July 26.
Earlier this year the Arkansas Legislature narrowly passed Act 812 by Sen. Trent Garner (R – El Dorado) and Rep. Sonia Barker (R – Smackover). The act lets cities create “entertainment districts” where alcohol can be carried and consumed publicly on streets and sidewalks.
The Mountain Home city ordinance initially proposed two weeks ago would have legalized public drinking from 4:30 PM – midnight seven days a week throughout some twelve blocks of the city’s historic downtown.
However, the ordinance was modified slightly last night to reduce the size of the public drinking district by about three blocks and to prevent bars and restaurants from selling alcohol in carry-out containers during the city’s Friday Night Block Party events.
It’s a small victory that the ordinance was amended at the eleventh hour to address some of its problems, but the fact remains that public drinking isn’t going to revitalize downtown Mountain Home or boost the city’s economy.
As we have said before, entertainment districts raise serious concerns about public safety. Cities like Memphis and New Orleans have had significant problems with violence in their entertainment districts, and public drinking and intoxication also raise concerns about drunk driving in surrounding neighborhoods.
If we really want to improve our communities, letting people drink on city streets and sidewalks is not the way to do it.