LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Good news for those who enjoy eating outside: a popular outdoor dining room will now be staying open through the end of the year. SoMa was turned into a temporary entertainment district in July but now, diners will be able to take their meals and drinks outside until December. 

Monday night, the SoMa outdoor dining room sits empty as local restaurants take a weekly break from the hustle and bustle of the arts district.

Downtown eateries say the city of tents has been a saving grace for businesses hit hard by COVID-19. “It’s been a great experience with everything that they’ve done in the neighborhood,” said local business owner Jason Alley. 

The creation of the entertainment district was meant to be a temporary fix. But a Board of Directors vote Monday night made sure the designation sticks around a bit longer.

Alley of “Rock N Roll” Sushi was thrilled when he heard of the extension. “I’m all for it,” Alley said. “I think it should be a permanent solution.” 

By designating SoMa as an entertainment district, visitors are able to take the fun outside. “They have the option to be able to purchase a cup, have their IDs checked and wristband, and they’re able to take their adult beverages out to the entertainment district,” Alley explained.

The outdoor seating also saves restaurants the trouble of having to turn customers away due to social distancing restrictions. Alley added, “It allows us to expand our capacity because we’re not at full capacity on the indoor dining.” 

The popular 2-block stretch draws patrons most days of the week, with the River Market and Argenta arts district in North Little Rock also allowing outside drinks and dining.

But some business owners would like to allow diners outside a bit longer, with SoMa becoming an entertainment district year-round. “I think that they should just continue to extend it, even past COVID,” said Alley. 

Right now, the outdoor dining room is open from 11 AM to 8 PM Tuesday through Sunday.

The entertainment district boundaries stretch from 12th to 17th street and a half-block on either side of Main Street. 

Restaurants participating in outdoor dining include:

  •  Rock N Roll Sushi 
  • South on Main 
  • Mockingbird Bar and Tacos 
  • Esters Soma 
  • Community Bakery 
  • Raduno 
  • The Root Cafe
  • Rock Town Distillery 
  • Loblolly Creamery