Parking Tweaked

Smoke Break Over Soon

By Richard Davis

TFW Staff Writer

There’s more than just smoke blowing through the city of Fayetteville.

At the last meeting on May 5, the City Council approved another tweak to the pay parking program in the downtown entertainment district. The system in place for the lot across from the Walton Arts Center proved to be shortsighted when the facility is packed to the gills and several hundred people try to leave at once. The mass exodus problem offered up complaints of wait times from 30 minutes to nearly two hours, as one friend estimated following the B.B. King concert last year, shortly after the pay parking program began.

To combat the long lines, Don Marr, the mayor’s chief of staff, said city employees and WAC officials came up with an event parking strategy, which could take place on anywhere from 120 to 150 dates out of the year. Instead of the normal routine, on big event dates the arm bars at the WAC lot would be raised prior to the event and human hands would collect money for parking instead of machines.

Regardless of whether you’re attending a WAC event or not and whether you’re planning on staying a short time or spending a full evening on the strip, the price to pay for parking in that lot on big event dates will be a flat $5. Brian Crowne, owner of George’s Majestic Lounge, and Julie Sill, one of the owners of Common Grounds and Hog Haus, both spoke at the meeting in favor of the plan. Crowne said he expected it could have an immediate positive impact on his business and would be a more positive experience for people coming to Dickson Street. Considering the 15-20 minutes it took for me to get processed out of the lot behind 20 or so people on a Thursday night, I’d say the event style plan could make a huge difference.

The council also made an adjustment to the way police deal with offenders who try to sneak in or out by driving around the arm bars at the WAC lot. Because there wasn’t a system in place, Police Chief Greg Tabor said the only option officers had in the past was to arrest the person for theft and drag ’em to the pokey. Tabor said he and the judges and prosecutors felt that process was too harsh. Now, officers will simply be able to issue would-be arm bar ninjas a citation, much like a speeding ticket.

Smoke Signals

The debate on banning smoking in bars will resume at the next council meeting 6 p.m. May 17 with the second reading of the proposed ordinance change.

To pass, the change will require six out of eight votes by aldermen. The proposal is being co-sponsored by Adella Gray and Matthew Petty. Likely yes votes, in my humble opinion, include council members Sarah Lewis, Rhonda Adams and Brenda Thiel.

Bobby Ferrell will shock the hell out of me if he doesn’t vote against it. At the last meeting, Mark Kinion publicly said he’s on the fence and could see arguments for both sides of the issue. Justin Tennant hasn’t given an indication one way or the other and could be another undecided.

Supporters of the proposed change can likely be hooked up with others who want the measure to pass through the Northwest Arkansas Tobacco Free Coalition,

Opponents started up a Facebook group last week with Free Choice in Fayetteville Bars. On the Free Weekly website on Wednesday, May 11, user name “opposition” posted this notice:

“If you are opposed to this ban please meet at JR’s on Block Street at 5:00p.m. Tuesday, May 17th for a pre-meeting to the City Council meeting that will begin at 6:00p.m. We need all bartenders, cocktail waiter/waitresses, bouncers, and bar patrons to show up and voice their opinions. It is time the working class took a stand!”

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