Fayetteville City Council approves Outdoor Refreshment Area

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FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — In a seven to one vote Thursday night, the Fayetteville City Council approved an Outdoor Refreshment Area (ORA) for downtown, effective immediately.

The council adopted an ordinance which designated an entertainment district pursuant to Act 812.

This allows outdoor alcohol consumption in designated areas during designated events with several restrictions.

“The Outdoor Refreshment Area Ordinance broadly does three things and three things only. It establishes the ability for those businesses in our outdoor refreshment area boundary to apply for a sidewalk café permit where their patrons could consume it at that sidewalk café without a permit or fence. It gives the flexibility for events in the future when it is safe to do so to apply for open consumption in their event area and businesses can sell in, which is a really unique aspect that other states across the country have that and I’m really excited to bring that to Fayetteville. And the third an final component is the pilot program where we walk around. We are proposing to start slow on the slow days however if that looks to be expanded we want to make sure we do so,” said Devin Howland, Director of economic vitality for the City of Fayetteville.

The ORA will stretch from Dickson Street to the city’s square and beyond.

“I think this is something that fayetteville residents wanted for a long time,” Bo Counts, owner of Pinpoint says.

However, there are some restrictions.

“People can’t just crack open a cooler of whatever and have a party in the street,” Bo says.

Here’s how it works.

“You’re in a bar enjoying a beer and you want to leave with that beer. You check in with your bartender or designated person at that establishment that manages it. You get the identifier armband, you get the proper cup, they’ll probably be an upcharge to pay for the program because it’s going to create new jobs because we have to have people to manage it and there’s a lot of materials involved,” Bo says.

Fayetteville Outdoor Refreshment Area

Though allowing alcohol outside of businesses has been a long topic of discussion among council members, with limitations in place because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the goal is to allow businesses to be able to serve more customers.

Fayetteville businesses within the ORA boundary can apply immediately to have a sidewalk cafe without a fence or barrier surrounding it.

Designated cups and physical identifiers will not be required for sidewalk cafés. 

For businesses located inside and outside of the ORA that wish to expand their outdoor dining service as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, they can utilize a temporary rule change from the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control (ABC).

This allows alcohol to be served in an expanded outdoor service area, while businesses are required to comply with capacity restrictions.

The City said it will take a slow and steady approach to allow public alcohol consumption in Fayetteville.

It has unveiled a Phasing Plan to pace out dirrernt aspects of what will be allowed within the ORA.

Outdoor Refreshment Area Phasing Plan

City staff and local businesses will conduct assessments of how things are going at each stage and at the end of each phase city staff will report to City Council.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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