LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Little Rock has a fair share of entertainment districts created during the pandemic to encourage social distancing while also allowing guests to support bars and restaurants.
Another could soon be set up in historic Hillcrest – although the current proposal only allows for two select days to celebrate the “first Thursday”.
Little Rock’s board of directors will vote on the proposal during its bimonthly meeting Tuesday evening.
Some business owners say – the label, if approved, should be permanent.
Hill Station, a restaurant and bar in Hillcrest, is usually not open on Mondays.
But with unusually warm weather and an open terrace available to guests, the opportunity could not be missed.
“When we got 60 degrees in January, we decided it seemed beneficial to open up,” explained Max Oliver, manager of the Kavanaugh store.
The terrace was a big draw for customers, especially on sunny days. With a certain resolution that hit the Little Rock board of directors on Tuesday, some companies could see a similar onslaught.
Hillcrest has asked to be designated as an “entertainment district” for two days in February and March, similar to the River Market and SoMa areas.
Oliver says this will be a game changer for restaurants with no outdoor seating, as customers will then be able to have their meals – and drinks – outside.
“I don’t see it’s a bad idea at all,” he said. “It would give other people in the neighborhood who are not so happy with outdoor seating an opportunity to get more customers.”
Ciao Baci – open from 4 p.m. – agrees to the proposed plan. “I’m all for it,” said Neil Pedrick, bar manager for the restaurant. “Anything the business brings to the neighborhood.”
The bartender wouldn’t mind enjoying his creations outdoors and other businesses attracting new customers due to the increase in foot traffic.
“We have a lot of good bars and restaurants in this neighborhood, so it’s not just us.” To be designated as an entertainment district would mean customers could take their drinks outside and certain streets could be blocked so that they are only accessible to pedestrians. Additional areas also included outdoor dining rooms, additional seating, and even live music – various ways the neighborhoods can draw crowds while staying socially distant. Hillcrest would be another district to be added to this list.
However, managers disagree on whether to make the changes permanent and create a district for days, weeks, or even seasons. Oliver says the roll call is about to wane. “If you do it every day, you lose some of the size of it,” he said. Pedrick, on the other hand, believes the district needs to stay for some time to make real progress.
“It’s harder to rule when you do it a day or two a month,” he added. Some are considering these two “test days” on Thursday for the district to see if longer routes are possible in the future.
So far, the suggested days are February 4th and March only, from 4pm to 9pm per night. The district’s boundaries generally extend from Kavanagh through Woodlawn and North Monroe to Walnut, including back streets that are also home to restaurants and bars. You can find the full resolution HERE.