HARRISON, Ark. (KY3) – Harrison city council is presenting a proposal for an entertainment district at its meeting Thursday.
The council initially introduced the idea in 2020. The council defeated the proposal by one vote. Many are showing support to revisit the idea with the departure of city hall from downtown and similar action eminent from the county courthouse within the year.
“Being one of the businesses down here, we are afraid of what it’s going to do to the traffic down here,” Maggie Larock told KY3. Larock says the small town appeal of the square was a focal point for her family when moving to the area.
“We would all love to see the downtown be revived,” said Heath Kirkpatrick, a local pastor at Woodland Heights Baptist Church. “My concern as a local pastor, I always say alcohol in and of itself is not a sin, but it’s always the overindulgence or drunkenness.”
Locals and downtown business owners want to see something to draw traffic to the area still. The city is beginning construction soon on the Creekside Community Center near downtown.
The idea of an entertainment district has been seen in neighboring communities like Mountain Home and Springdale. Matt Bell with Explore Harrison says data from the Mountain Home district has been informative in the plans being constructed by the city of Harrison tourism committee.
“The entertainment district proposal, what it will do is designate a walking area within our downtown that is conducive to a social atmosphere,” said Bell. “Visitors can go into a restaurant, get an adult beverage, and walk freely within that district.”
Explore Harrison says the proposal outlines specific rules like the type of alcohol allowed, the container it would be required to be in, and where the alcohol could be consumed.
“The idea of promoting people to walk around, in and out of shops, I think it just kind of opens a little more of a concern with public safety and other issues police will have to deal with,” said Kirkpatrick.
Bell says the idea has succeeded in other locations with participating businesses aiding the entertainment district. He told KY3 Thursday that as many as three prospective businesses selling alcohol are on board with the proposal and intend to open up shop around Harrison square.
“Mountain Home just finished up a big event in their entertainment district; there were no issues when it came to crime, drunk and disordered conduct, any of those things,” said Bell. “It was a very well attended event, a very family-friendly event, and that’s what the entertainment district will bring too.”
But questions remain.
“Will open containers draw people downtown, and that’s an issue that I’m concerned about, that it won’t,” said Kirkpatrick. “We all want to see the downtown revitalized, especially with recent departures, but other options could be visited.”
Observation suggests that most businesses in the downtown area favor the proposal, hopeful of increasing traffic in the area.
“Entertainment district aside, we need to explore options that will bring jobs and economic growth to the downtown area,” said Robert Young, a downtown business owner. “I feel a majority of locals want to see this area continue to thrive.
The entertainment district proposal will have its first reading at Thursday’s city council meeting. If approved, it cannot be officially adopted until two months from now.
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