A bill in Arkansas that would allow cities and towns where alcohol is sold to establish a so-called entertainment district is making its way through the approval process. But critics warn this could affect the state's downtown areas in an unwholesome way.
The measure in question is Senate Bill 492, which passed a few days ago and is now going through the process of approval in the House.
"We say that this contributes to public drinking because obviously you're going to be drinking out on the street corner, and with that you have a whole host of problems, like underage drinking and exposing children to an unwholesome atmosphere and so forth," says Jerry Cox of the Arkansas-based Family Council. "It's just foolishness."
Under current law, people drinking in establishments are supposed to stay in that area -- be it a bar, restaurant, festival beer garden, etc.
Senate Bill 492 was introduced by Senator Trent Garner (R-El Dorado) and has the backing of Representative Sonia Barker (R-Smackover). And Cox says they are not the only two Republicans in favor of the measure in the GOP-majority legislature.
"The way this measure is being promoted as a good thing is to say that it's good for the economy," says Cox. "They compared us to Beale Street in Memphis, even Bourbon Street in New Orleans, and I'm like, 'I don't think people want their downtowns here in Arkansas to look like Bourbon Street or even Beale Street.'"
Cox warns that people in dry counties should not get too comfortable thinking, "This will never happen here."
"People will say, 'The town 20 miles over has an entertainment district, and they're selling all this alcohol, and our restaurants need the revenue, so we need to be able to sell it, too,'" Cox poses.
"It's urgent that people call their state representative and ask them to vote against Senate Bill 492, which is the entertainment district bill," he concludes.