Downtown drinking | Arkansas Blog

Downtown drinking

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Here's a cautionary tale for Little Rock from booming Madison, Wisc., where a downtown revival includes lots of new condos and apartments and a hot -- some say too hot -- entertainment district.

But as downtown’s population and revelry have grown, so have overcrowding on the streets, vandalism and, most significantly, the police say, alcohol-related crime. Mayor Dave Cieslewicz and other officials find themselves grappling with a problem that is a direct result of Madison’s successful transformation: how to tone down downtown.

As an urban issue, the downsizing of downtowns has little precedent because many cities, particularly in the Midwest, are struggling mightily to bring people back to their cores, not send them away.

Of course, many college towns deal with problems related to drinking. In the Midwest alone, La Crosse, Wis., and East Lansing and Ann Arbor, Mich., are struggling with how to cope with the public mayhem often fueled by inebriated students.

In Madison, two Common Council members, convinced that much of what ails downtown can be traced to the proliferation of bars and restaurants known more for drinking than dining, introduced a plan intended to reduce the number of such establishments, and to restrict the approval of new liquor licenses.

Little Rock, you may note, is going the other direction, with a push for permitting of street drinking.

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