LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Little Rock has its fair share of entertainment districts, created during the pandemic as a way to encourage social distancing while still allowing patrons to support bars and restaurants.
Soon, another may be established in historic Hillcrest – although the current proposal is just for two select days to celebrate “First Thursday”.
The Little Rock Board of Directors will vote on the proposal Tuesday night during their bi-monthly meeting.
Some business owners say – the designation if approved, should be made permanent.
Hill Station, a restaurant and bar based in Hillcrest, usually isn’t open on Mondays.
But with uncharacteristically warm weather and an open patio available for guests, the opportunity couldn’t be missed.
“Being 60 degrees in January, we decided it seemed advantageous to open up,” explained Max Oliver, a manager at the Kavanaugh business.
Their patio has been a major draw for customers, especially on sunny days. With a certain resolution hitting the Little Rock Board of Directors Tuesday, some businesses could see a similar rush.
Hillcrest has asked to be designated an “entertainment district” for two days in February and March, similar to what’s been done in the River Market and SoMa areas.
Oliver says this will be a game-changer for eateries without outdoor seating, as customers would then be allowed to take their meals – and drinks – outdoors.
“I don’t see that it’s a bad idea at all,” he said. “What it would do is give other people in the neighborhood who are not so fortunate to have the outdoor seating the ability to bring in more customers.”
Down the road, Ciao Baci – open starting at 4 PM – agrees with the proposed plan. “I’m all for it,” said Neil Pedrick, bar manager for the restaurant. “Anything that will bring in business to the neighborhood.”
The bartender wouldn’t mind seeing his creations enjoyed outdoors, and have other businesses share new customers from an increase in foot traffic.
“We’ve got a lot of good bars and restaurants in this neighborhood, so it’s not just us.” Being designated as an entertainment district would mean customers could take their drinks outside, and certain roads could be blocked off to make it pedestrian-only. Other areas have also included outdoor dining rooms, additional seating, and even live music – various ways the neighborhoods can draw in crowds while also keeping socially distanced. Hillcrest would be another district added to that list.
But the managers are split on whether the changes should be made permanent, creating a district for days, weeks, or even seasons at a time. Oliver says the appeal would wear off. “If you do it every day, you kind of lose some of the grandeur of it,” he said. Pedrick, on the other hand, believes that in order for real progress to be made, the district has to stick around for some time.
“It’s harder to govern if you do it one or two days a month,” he added. Some are considering these two Thursdays “test” days for the district to see if longer stretches are possible for the future.
So far, the proposed days are only the 4th of February and March, from 4 pm to 9 pm each night. The boundaries of the district would stretch, generally, from Kavanagh to Woodlawn and North Monroe to Walnut, including side streets that also contain eateries and bars. The full resolution can be found HERE.