Fears of making Broad Street an “unsightly area” were just some of the comments from pastors and others who implored the City Commission to reject a bid for public consumption in specified neighborhoods on Monday evening. Some speakers talked of all-day drinking, public urination and an unhealthy atmosphere for young people or those dining on the sidewalk cafes.
Never mind that alcohol already is served on those outdoor tables during regular business hours.
One after one, speakers generally ages 50 to at least 78 talked about new dangers a public consumption zone would create. They said any extra revenue associated with it wasn’t needed (even though the September sales tax and LOST reports show dollars sputtering near levels seen during the recession).
When the public comment session was over, Mayor Jamie Doss turned to the chair of the Alcohol Control Commission and fellow City Commissioner Wendy Davis.
It was her committee that drafted the ordinance in a series of monthly public meetings that were sparsely attended. She made a final push for passage, even after acknowledging, “I can count.”
Davis cited studies from other communities where the public consumption zones had boosted sales. She told of a survey conducted that narrowed the respondents to city residents and how most of those in favor were younger professionals. The ACC, by a unanimous vote Sept. 18, voted to send the proposal to the City Commission for review. Monday was the second and final reading of the document.
Davis then made a motion to approve the ordinance but it died for a lack of a second.
Doss then asked for a motion to oppose, voiced by City Commissioner Evie McNiece and seconded by Commissioner Craig McDaniel. It received an overwhelming vote by the board, save Davis. Final count: 7 votes opposing the open container proposal, one in favor. Commissioner Sue Lee, recovering from a foot injury, even sent in a statement read after the vote.
Doss quickly asked for a recess before taking up the rest of the agenda.
The proposal: The ordinance designated a specific area in which consumption can occur. That area is defined as Broad Street from First Avenue to Fifth Avenue; north across Fifth Avenue to West Third Street; from West Third Street to Second Avenue; from Second Avenue to the Bridge Point Plaza area; back to the point of origin. This ordinance specifies that persons, who are consuming alcohol within the designated area, were limited to one drink per person, and the container would be the vessel designed and specified by the Downtown Development Authority. The size of the container is limited to a maximum of 16 ounces; no canned bottles or glass are allowed. The hours of public consumption would be 12:30 until 11 p.m. on Sunday and between the hours of 10 a.m. – 11 p.m. on the other days of the week.
Watch the replay: You can watch the public hearing and the entire Monday night meeting: Click here