The North Little Rock Planning Commission on July 12 during its regular meeting rejected a request from two salon owners to allow them to open an event center in a C-1 commercial zone at 2525 Willow St., Suite 2.
Monica Brewster and Donnita McGee, owners/stylists of Panache’ Beauty & Barber, 2525 Willow, Suite 3, asked commissioners to use an existing office building as the events center.
According to their application, the area’s existing land-use plan is designed for the location to be utilized for community shopping.
The month of July marked the first time the request had been on the planning commission agenda.
The request was made as the city has been restricting the opening of event centers to special use applications.
Although they would have operated the events center beside their salon business, the owner of the property, Craig Betts, told commissioners he believed there still was an ample amount of parking space to accommodate an events center there, too.
"We will require a full rental agreement from all potential renters and make sure that they are fully aware of expectations of Panache Events Center as well as the city of North Little Rock," according a letter submitted to the commission by Brewster and McGee. "We plan to rent the facility out seven days a week from as early as 8 a.m. and no later than 1 a.m. The use of alcohol by minors will be prohibited and posted in our establishment. Anyone planning to serve alcohol will be required to have a police officer and security for the full length of their event."
The commission’s rejection of the proposal came after several city residents spoke up and asked the board to turn it down.
City Alderwoman Debi Ross asked commissioners to reject the request.
"We have got to respect this neighborhood," Ross said. "We really do not need this there."
City Alderwoman Beth White expressed concern about an events center in the Willow Street area.
"There are a lot of things to consider — the neighborhood, the residents there," White said. "I think about if I lived on one of those streets. I think about the noise and the cars. I think about the activity going on there at midnight or 1 a.m. when people would be finally leaving. That is pretty late. If this were my neighborhood, how would I feel? I favor business, but we need to evaluate if this is what we want there."
One resident echoed White’s reservations about the proposed business.
"My concern is about the events center being placed so close to the neighborhood," North Little Rock resident Jane Singer told commissioners. "They will be serving alcohol."
Singer added she does not believe the events center is a good fit for the existing neighborhood.
"It used to be called Doctors Road there," she said. "You have the police station there, the water department behind this, the senior center. You have The Medicine Shoppe that has been in the neighborhood for 30 years. A quiet business is more appropriate there."
Singer added an event center would not match the other activities and operations in the area.
"The personality of this events center seems inappropriate as a representation of our civic and community activities," she said. "Millions of dollars have been put into the Laman Library and to make this area unprofessional and the introduction of alcohol seems totally inappropriate since it is so close to the high school."
Brewster told commissioners she felt her proposal was being misunderstood. The events center would be an affordable location for events like baby showers and retirement parties.
"I understand the concerns, but I would at least give it a chance," Brewster said.
With several voices speaking out against the proposal, Commissioner Vandy Belasco asked Brewster if she would like the commission to wait on voting to see if she and nearby opposing residents could work out a potential agreement or compromise.
Brewster responded that she did not favor a delay in the vote, adding she works two jobs and is a single mother.
As a result, the commission voted unanimously to reject the events center proposal.