In the words of country duo Dan + Shay, Fort Smith residents may in the future be able to drink “whiskey and red wine, champagne all night, and a little scotch on the rocks” along Garrison Avenue.

The Fort Smith Board of Directors discussed Tuesday creating possible entertainment districts. These highlight a city’s restaurants, hospitality, entertainment and tourist amenities and allow alcohol to be taken outside of participating venues.

Act 812, passed by the state Legislature this spring, amended law to allow for permanent and temporary entertainment districts. Cities may choose where people can carry open alcohol on public rights of way at regularly set times or for events.

Deputy City Administrator Jeff Dingman said cities can define boundaries, times when the district is active and set other rules. All laws related to alcohol still apply, including public intoxication.

The city and 64.6 Downtown Director Talicia Richardson have already worked with local stakeholders to get input.

“From our perspective, I think we were engaging the appropriate stakeholders to get their feedback on possible boundaries, timeframes that would be conducive, and their feedback on business activity that would help them spur economic development,” Richardson said.

In Dingman’s memo to the board for the discussion, three downtown districts — East End/Cisterna, Central/Convention Center and West End/Pavilion — would be created. Chaffee Crossing may also have a separate district.

The directors, however, want to ensure equity of opportunity if separate districts are created rather than a singular downtown space.

“My concern is being equitable to the business owners on Garrison,” said Ward 1 Director Keith Lau. “That immediately affects their business. We just need to make sure it’s an equitable decision that’s fair to all business owners as we move forward.”

There was also concern of showing where districts would begin and end, and making sure placement provides optimum safety and enjoyment.

“You want to have people travel with purpose, so they’re going from activity to activity,” Richardson said. “If we’re instituting something like this, we need to be very strategic.”

If there are separate areas, the city would be responsible for having proper indicators of where alcohol is allowed outside.

Safety issues related to “allowing people to walk around while drinking” are still being worked out. Dingman cited this issue as a reason for the three condensed districts rather than proposing a blanket downtown district.

Of the members in attendance, the consensus is to continue evaluating ways to make a Garrison Avenue district safe and fair to all businesses.

Districts may also provide the ability for other events to serve alcohol. For example, the city could host an art walk or other outdoor event and serve wine or champagne. Temporary districts spanning a larger area may also be created for events such as the Steel Horse Rally.

Mountain Home, El Dorado and Fayetteville have implemented or are working to implement these districts. Vice Mayor and At-large Director Kevin Settle wants Fort Smith to see what works for those locations and tailor them to the city’s needs.

One Mountain Home requirement is that alcohol must be served in specific paper or plastic cups with the establishment’s logo on them. People are barred from bringing or using bottles, cans or other drinking containers. This helps law enforcement know who’s in compliance with the law.

Richardson said just because a restaurant or bar is located within the confines of a district, however, does not mean it is required to participate. It can still require customers to keep their drinks inside.

Exact times and rules will be established along with the location.

“Wasn’t part of our comprehensive plan to build an entertainment district in the downtown area? This plays into it,” Settle said. “This is what we set out to do as a board years ago. I’m all into this. I think this is a great opportunity. It will give us more opportunities for people to go downtown and stay downtown and do things.”

Fort Chaffee Redevelopment Authority Marketing Director Lorie Robertson believes this is something the organization and the area's local leadership is interested in exploring further.

An entertainment district would likely be at or near the Chaffee Crossing Warehouse District.

“We have investors coming into the area, and they really embrace this type of liveability, walkability,” Robertson said.