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Dine out options expand in central Arkansas with coronavirus restrictions still in place

Organizers of one outdoor area hope to expand into an entertainment district.

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Dine out options continue to expand as restaurants find a safe, normal solution during the pandemic. 

Organizers of one outdoor area hope to expand into an entertainment district. 

“It’s central to lots and lots of businesses in the SoMa neighborhood,” Co-Owner of The Root Café and Mockingbird Bar and Tacos Jack Sundell said.

Sundell said the SoMa Outdoor Dining Room has drawn lots of people. 

“The first five days we had about 300 visitors to the Outdoor Dining room,” Sundell said.

It’s an area people can pick up food from neighborhood restaurants and have a safe dining experience. 

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“We’re not comfortable doing service yet inside the restaurant but I know that a lot of customers are looking for outdoor spaces to eat,” Sundell said.

Organizers are applying for the area to be a temporary entertainment district, which would allow people to purchase alcoholic drinks at SoMa restaurants and bring them to the dining room.

“We’re really excited about that, that’s going before the city board and they would vote on it on July 7,” Sundell said.

Across the bridge in North Little Rock, the Flyway Brewing Company has converted into Tent City.

"We have set up 18 tents in our parking lot. Every tent has its own contained tables and chairs so that we can keep everybody socially distanced safely, and after every table gets up we're sanitizing," Front of House Manager and Social Media Manager Ren Scott said.

Customers get their own tent and table, and they throw away the utensils they use to limit contact. 

The Argenta Downtown Council lent the tables and chairs, and the manager says it has been a huge success.

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“I wish I was exaggerating when I said that we get more positive reviews now than we got when we were open,” Scott said.

They attribute it all to customers feeling at ease when they grab a drink or a bite to eat. 

“People calling, messaging, and writing on Facebook and Google about how happy they are that they can come and feel comfortable and safe,” Scott said.

The Argenta Outdoor Dining District was established in 2019, which allows customers to eat and drink outdoors.