Establishment of a downtown “entertainment district” received its first airing at Monday’s Magnolia City Council meeting.
CLICK THE PDF to read the entire ordinance.
Should the council pass the proposal after hearing the ordinance during its February, and possibly March meetings, patrons of restaurants within the district would be able to consume alcoholic beverages outdoors within the boundaries of the district.
The proposed district is comprised of the Magnolia Square and selected portions of neighboring streets. Consult the map accompanying this article and note the blue-shaded area, which is the proposed entertainment zone.
The ordinance is 10 pages long but distills into these points:
People would be allowed to have and drink alcoholic beverages outdoors in the district between the hours of 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday. Time changes could be made to accommodate special events in the district.
While no drinks could be taken outside after 10 p.m., the legal closing time indoors would remain at 2 a.m.
The beverages would have to be sold to people by restaurants in the district that have appropriate licenses for alcohol sales. Sellers would provide drinks to customers drinks in specially-branded cups, and with an approved wristband.
A person could have only one drink at a time. Drinks would be permitted in cups only – no bottles or containers with brand names of drinks.
People won’t be allowed to take drinks outside the district. Signage will be provided by the city to indicate district boundaries. Waste and recycling receptables will be placed at district boundaries and high-traffic areas.
Businesses in the district, including those not permitted to serve alcoholic beverages, may indicate their participation in the district by displaying appropriate window signage. Those businesses that do so will be deemed to consent to the entry of customers with alcoholic beverages.
During discussion of the ordinance, council members set a minimum $150 fine for persons violating provisions of the ordinance.
Mayor Parnell Vann said that the city would provide video cameras and additional lighting in the entertainment district.
Council members also talked about whether to pass the ordinance with an “emergency clause,” which would have the effect of making the ordinance active immediately after its passage.
Ellie Baker, who is proposing the ordinance as head of the city’s Economic Development Office, said she wanted the emergency clause to ensure that the entertainment district could be running by the Magnolia Blossom Festival, May 19-20. Placing the ordinance on the standard three separate readings could mean that it wouldn’t go into effect until late April.
City Attorney Joel Hutcheson expressed discomfort with using emergency clauses for matters that don’t involve public health and safety.
The council left the matter of an emergency clause hanging.
Baker said the creation of the district looks toward the future of the Magnolia Square as an entertainment venue.
“This is not for what we have today. This is for what it could potentially bring – more offerings to our town,” Baker said.
Baker told magnoliareporter.com after the meeting that having the entertainment district is essential to get the most out of evening events at the new Square Park and its Albemarle Stage.
Citizens who want to comment to the council about the ordinance may contact the mayor’s office, 870-234-1375, and ask for a place on the agenda for the Monday, February 27 meeting. The council allows individuals up to five minutes to comment, provided they’ve asked for a spot on the agenda.