Visit Hot Springs will be taking the city's new downtown entertainment district for a spin with four live music block party-type events every Thursday in June, pandemic permitting.
Bridge Street LIVE! will feature a different live band every Thursday.
The entertainment lineup will include:
• June 3 -- Memphis Soul Review playing Memphis rock and soul.
• June 10 -- Arkansauce, a bluegrass band.
• June 17 -- The Irie Lions playing reggae.
• June 24 -- Funkytown playing Memphis funk.
The events are free and open to the public, and since it's within the bounds of the entertainment district, it will allow open-carry beer and alcohol purchased from restaurants in the district.
"What we're able to do in the entertainment district is allow the bars and restaurants to sell beer and alcohol in a certain cup," event coordinator Bill Solleder said. "So we'll have a branded Bridge Street LIVE! cup, and they can actually buy the beer inside (restaurants) or in their outside tents, and then walk freely around the entertainment district. Then they can walk back in and walk in and out of the bar as long as they have this certain cup, and whatever stamps or wristbands the bar requires them."
Solleder said the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Division is making it easier to hold events like this "every once in a while."
"Visit Hot Springs, we're required to submit a permit to the city of Hot Springs for whatever specific day (the event is to be held)," he said. "So then we get approval from the city to be able to do it. So it isn't every day of the week, or every weekend. It's only when the city grants a permit."
Bridge Street LIVE! will be a great way to "test out" the district, he said, and to learn from it and adapt from what they learn.
"I'm not saying at one time we won't be able to open the district up on every weekend, or all the time, but we'll just have to see how it goes this time and see how people react to it, and if it benefits everybody," Solleder said. "We'll see how it goes."
As far as holding the events during the COVID-19 pandemic, Solleder said, "We're all holding our breath and hope that things loosen up, and I think that everybody understands we have to do things safely regardless. But the reason we're going ahead and planning is that if things do open in early spring and summertime, it will give us a chance to be ready to do something instead of waiting and then trying to plan something.
"We're planning on events, and if we can't have them due to the pandemic, we can't."
Even if current restrictions on large gatherings don't change between now and June, he said Bridge Street LIVE! can still be held, just with limited attendance and required masking.
"So, I think that there's a way to do it. It may mean that less people can enjoy what we're doing at a time, but I think it will be possible," Solleder said.
Currently, the Arkansas Department of Health requires a submitted safety plan to hold large events.
"We had already reached out to the Department of Health about six weeks ago, and they asked us to wait until March to submit the application," Solleder said.
"Reason being is, one, they're so busy, and two, we don't know what the regs are going to look like that far out. Things seem to be changing rather quickly right now, so they told us just to wait until March. ... I have a feeling they're going to be very busy and very (cautious) moving forward and giving approval."
With high hopes, from now to June, Solleder asks this of the community: "All of you do your best to keep your guests and clients and customers safe so we can get through this and we can get back to normal."