Home / News / Little Rock city board delays taking up measure to tighten juvenile curfew for entertainment districts and parks

Little Rock city board delays taking up measure to tighten juvenile curfew for entertainment districts and parks

Jun 06, 2023Jun 06, 2023

The Little Rock Board of Directors on Tuesday evening opted to put off a discussion and possible vote on a proposal that would tighten an existing curfew by prohibiting minors from entering entertainment districts and parks during certain hours.

After some debate over whether to add the proposed ordinance to the meeting agenda and take it up immediately, Little Rock Mayor Frank Scott Jr. pledged to call a June 13 special meeting for board members to consider the proposal.

Within designated entertainment districts, patrons wearing a wristband can drink alcoholic beverages, purchased from certain vendors, from a special container in the open during specific hours.

The city's first permanent entertainment district opened in the River Market District in 2019.

Also on Tuesday, board members voted to extend the operations of two temporary entertainment districts, one near Third Street in downtown Little Rock and the other along Main Street in the neighborhood known as SoMa, via a pair of resolutions.

The city's existing curfew bars those under 18 from public places from 10 p.m. until 5 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, and from midnight until 5 a.m. Friday through Saturday.

The latest version of the draft ordinance would add language to prohibit minors from entering temporary or permanent entertainment districts while they are in operation as well as parks from 9 p.m. until 5 a.m. daily.

An emergency clause would make the measure effective immediately upon passage.

Language in the proposed ordinance says that because people can not only purchase alcoholic beverages but also carry them on the street inside entertainment districts, "such a situation makes it virtually impossible for the City to protect juveniles from the illegal use of alcohol, or effectively enforce ... the laws that prohibit the illegal use or access to alcoholic beverages by juveniles."

The draft measure goes on to state that "the City does not have sufficient law enforcement officers to patrol City parks in the evening hours to assure that juveniles are not subject to the use or abuse of alcoholic beverages within a public park."

Because City Manager Bruce Moore brought forward the proposal, it required six votes as opposed to eight among the 10 city directors to add the measure to the agenda, officials indicated during the meeting.

At-large City Director Antwan Phillips raised concerns about the process, arguing that the proposed ordinance should have been on the agenda for discussion during the board's most recent agenda-setting meeting, which took place May 23, to allow members of the public to be informed and weigh in.

He said he sent an email to fellow board members earlier Tuesday regarding the substance of his concerns.

Phillips was echoed by City Director Ken Richardson of Ward 2.

Similarly, City Director Virgil Miller Jr. of Ward 1 said he wanted to hear from businesses in the entertainment districts and endorsed a delay, though he expressed openness to some kind of action with regard to a juvenile curfew.

City Directors Dean Kumpuris, Lance Hines, Capi Peck and Kathy Webb argued, some more forcefully than others, for quicker action.

"We're supposed to take care of problems. We have a drastic problem downtown," Kumpuris said.

Print Headline: Board delays measure on minor curfew

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