Montgomery suspends downtown open container ordinance in 2018

Montgomery suspends downtown open container ordinance in 2018

MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) - Residents and visitors will no longer be able to walk around Montgomery's entertainment district with an open container in 2018.

Montgomery city leaders have decided to suspend the beverage policy ordinance that is associated with the downtown entertainment district effective Jan. 1, 2018, according to City Councilman Tracy Larkin.

"This measure is an effort to do all we can to ensure a safe, wholesome environment for all Montgomery citizens, including the business community that has made significant investments in the downtown area," Larkin said.

The decision came after a number of meetings in recent months with business owners, residents, public safety leadership and city council to evaluate the best ways to accommodate continued growth in the downtown area.

Mayor Todd Strange also told WSFA 12 News Wednesday that paying overtime for extra police patrol was becoming expensive, pointing to an added $500,000 annually just for overtime costs. He added the change does not cancel the entertainment district and the suspension of the open container ordinance is only temporary.

Restaurant and bar patrons will still be able to enjoy outdoor seating where available at venues that hold the proper liquor licenses. Patrons will not be allowed to leave those venues with an alcoholic beverage to walk around with the district after the new year, officials say.

Bob Parker, one of the owners of Dreamland Bar-B-Que, never had a problem with the open container ordinance when the city passed it five years ago, and has no issues with the latest development.

"I support the city and I don't believe the people coming downtown will be too upset," Parker said.

One of the reasons it was passed was to lure more people downtown, including businesses. There was no singular incident that prompted the move, but it was starting to become a nuisance. More and more people congregated on street corners, taking advantage of the perk, and it attracted the wrong kind of crowds.

"We don't want to become a Bourbon Street, and we're trying to be respectful of the residents who live downtown and also the people who have investments downtown," Strange said.

"They want to feel safe," Parker added.

More than 30 businesses agreed with the move. Plus, with 1,400 people living in downtown loft apartments now,  the on-going revitalization shows no sign of abating. New businesses continue to come in including new hotels. In short, the open-container ordinance was no considered longer a necessary tool to revive downtown.

The downtown entertainment ordinance was established in 2012 and drew customers downtown, energizing businesses invested in the area.

In April 2017, leaders in Montgomery spoke out after an altercation in the entertainment district downtown went viral on social media. Police increased patrol in the area during the summer months and worked with downtown merchants and businesses to assure a safe and enjoyable environment for residents and visitors.

This change in policy will not affect the Cloverdale Entertainment Districts.

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