City board members discussed Tuesday the possibility of establishing a temporary entertainment district for nine months in downtown Siloam Springs.
Director Brad Burns initially made the proposal during the April 21 board meeting. The proposal is meant to benefit reopening businesses by offering outdoor seating for restaurants and allowing patrons dining outdoors to order alcoholic beverages with their meal from their table, he said.
The proposed district would run from Ziggywurst up University Street to Broadway Street then down Broadway to Main Street for the last leg up to Pour Jons. It would be open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday through Saturday.
Burns said Tuesday he would like the board to come to a decision at the May 19 meeting and pass an ordinance with an emergency clause, so it would not have to go through three readings in order to benefit restaurants just reopening after the covid-19 shutdown.
Don Clark, community development director, said three restaurants presently do not have outdoor seating where alcohol can be served -- 28 Springs, Cafe on Broadway and Tintos and Tapas.
Clark said the proposal would allow consumption and possession of alcoholic beverages within that district but would not allow businesses to sell or serve alcohol outside the permitted area. Other cities such as Texarkana, Ark., have entertainment districts, he said.
Texarkana's entertainment district is open from 11 a.m. to midnight on Sunday and 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. Monday through Saturday, according to an article in the Texarkana Gazette on Oct. 16, 2019. Clark said other districts are open at different times and days. He asked for guidance from the board on to how to proceed.
Director Lesa Rissler said she likes the idea but wanted more time to research the issue. Director Carol Smiley said she is in favor of the entertainment district because she felt it would bring people downtown to shop at other retail establishments as well. She added that a bit more thought needed to be put into the issue.
Director Marla Sappington said she felt the information she was presented with was misleading.
"When this was presented to us," Sappington said, "it was presented as outdoor seating without the entertainment district."
Sappington said she is not against the entertainment district but feels the city has more important things to take care of right now such as reopening the library, preparing parks and letting families get out and be together.
Director Bob Coleman said he felt the board was "goaded" into looking at this as an outdoor seating arrangement. Coleman said he was firmly against the idea of an entertainment district, temporary or otherwise, because he was concerned it would become permanent. He noted that many retail businesses close before 11 p.m. Coleman asked for the opinion of Police Chief Allan Gilbert.
Gilbert said he came from a city that tried an entertainment district for a year and it ended up being a good thing for the city. Gilbert said there were not really any problems and only two arrests in the entertainment district during that year. He said the arrests were for the same person who had an alcohol problem.
Gilbert said police patrolled the district on bikes, Segways or a golf cart, mingling with citizens and visitors.
City Administrator Phillip Patterson said he understood the need to get the proposal passed through emergency clause in order to help businesses in a timely manner.
Director Reid Carroll said he would be in favor of the entertainment district if this was about bringing the community together and not just about carrying a cup of alcohol from one place to another. Director Mindy Hunt asked if the zone could be smaller. She said she wants to help small businesses but wanted Siloam Springs to remain true to itself.
"We are also a family-oriented town," Hunt said. "And so I want to make sure we keep the families in mind too."
Burns said he appreciated everyone's input and said he noticed that people like to be downtown at night. Burns said quality of life equals economic goals.
"But at the end of the day when you get past the struggle and you think there is going to be some sloppy drunk next to a five-year-old doing something weird, you know, remember I've been to some of your family parties so that's already happened," Burns said with a chuckle before continuing. "We're talking about a public place, where there's the rule of law. If you cannot stay within the rule of law, there's consequences."
Patterson also announced during the meeting the city will be reopening the following city facilities on May 11:
• The library will open for curbside pick-up and delivery from noon to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. Then on May 18, the library will open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday. The library will allow 30 people at a time and have a time limit of 60 minutes for computers. Curbside pick up will continue Friday from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
• The Transfer Station will reopen from 8 a.m to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday.
• Curbside recycling will resume May 11. Staff will be wearing gloves and will sanitize their trucks at the end of the day. The public will also be advised to wash their hands and use hand sanitizer after picking up their recycling bins.
• Zumba classes will resume at the community building. Patterson said they will be subject to the same restrictions as gyms and fitness centers by staying 12 feet apart. The community building will reopen for availability of groups of 50 or less on May 16.
• The lobbies of the animal shelter, community development building, city hall, utility billing, police, parks, fire, electric and public works will open.
• Park amenities will reopen except for amenities for contact sports such as basketball, football and baseball.
• Courts will resume on May 18 at 8:30 a.m. on Mondays and Tuesdays for arraignments. On June 1, courts will have two sessions for arraignments, at 8:30 a.m and 10:30 a.m.
Other actions taken and items discussed by the board were:
• Approval of a grant application from the FAA for Siloam Springs Municipal Airport for $30,000.
• Approval of an agreement between the city and the Illinois River Watershed Partnership for stream mitigation on Sager Creek at Sager's Crossing Golf Course for $110,000 to be paid in the fiscal year of 2021.
• Third reading and final approval of Ordinance 20-08 relating to drive-throughs.
• Discussion of first-quarter 2020 board goal updates.
• Discussion of submitting the Main Street Re-Design Project to voters.General News on 05/10/2020
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