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LR puts lid on open containers

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The city of Little Rock has withdrawn its support of the open container bill contained in its package of legislation carried by the Arkansas Municipal League.

Assistant City Manager Bryan Day said that opposition to the legislation, which would have allowed the consumption of alcoholic beverages on the street, from businesses in the River Market district persuaded the city to back off the idea. At one time, persons of influence wanted to create a Beale Street (Memphis) atmosphere on Clinton Avenue. But Clinton is already beleaguered with problems stemming from the bar business — including litter and vomit — and representatives of the art galleries and the Main Library wanted the district stiffly regulated with an increased police presence.

The city of Hot Springs at one time had shown interest in the bill, which it thought could benefit its monthly Gallery Walk on Central Avenue. But no sponsors have been found for legislation to date.

Rest of the story

More information has been filtering in about Jason Willett’s resignation as chairman of the state Democratic Party.

Willett told the Times that he is leaving to pursue political consulting and lobbying business.

But the backstory includes tensions between Willett and a campaign finance staffer for Gov. Mike Beebe, Jim Alexee, which reportedly culminated in an unhappy confrontation between Willett and Alexee late in the evening of Beebe’s inauguration.

Alexee has some powerful allies, like major donor Beth Coulson, and reports of Willett’s behavior that night reached Beebe about the time he learned from the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette that Willett had registered as a lobbyist in Arkansas. As a result, Beebe called Willett, who was in Washington, D.C., at the time, to express his desire for Willett to step down.

Meanwhile, Alexee is the new finance director for the state Democratic Party. And who might succeed Willett? Hottest current rumor seems to point toward former legislator Bill Gwatney.

Not made general yet

Dr. Joe Thompson, the director of the Arkansas Center for Health Improvement and also the state’s chief health officer, said “I don’t have anything to tell you” when the Times asked him last week about reports that he was under consideration for the job as U.S. surgeon general. Noted: That’s neither a yes nor a no. He added that he wouldn’t call the position a “job,” in that it requires confirmation by the Senate. And that if there was something to tell the Times, he would.

Smoking

As last week’s Insider reported, Little Rock restaurateur Mark Abernathy is planning to open a barbecue restaurant at the southeast corner of Seventh and Woodrow streets in the Capitol View/Stifft Station neighborhood.

Abernathy told the Capitol View/Stifft Station Neighborhood Association of purchasing the land. A rendering of his planned restaurant shows indoor and outdoor seating in a park-like atmosphere. The neighborhood association voted to approve the project. He’ll need to have the land rezoned from warehouse/office to commercial/office for the deal to work.

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