City adopts downtown alcohol amendment

Published 8:40 pm Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Tuesday evening Bainbridge City Council adopted an amended alcohol ordinance that would allow for open container in the central business district with a 3-2 vote. Roslyn Palmer and Phil Long were the dissenting voters.

Amanda Glover began the public hearing by inviting Bainbridge Public Safety director Jerry Carter to address some of Councilwoman Roslyn Palmer’s previous hesitations with the amendment. Carter said he did not see any problem with the amendment being proposed. He referred back to a previous location that served alcohol there and will treat the current business the way he treated that one.

“We will go down there and take care of business, whether they are under 21 or grown,” Carter said. “A lot of people don’t buy alcohol, they bring their own, so I don’t think that will change this. This new ordinance should be good.”

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Glover provided downtown business statistics, saying downtown is at an 88 percent occupancy rate and that downtown has become an important aspect for many, with nine new businesses this year. She offered an example of the Yuletide Jubilee that will begin Dec. 7, where businesses will stay open later. If the open container amendment was adopted, Glover argued it would provide an extended nighttime life that citizens have wanted for a long time. Glover realizes that Bainbridge would be on the forefront of cities that provide this, but believes it will stimulate current businesses and be attractive to potential businesses.

Roy Oliver said that downtown is such a special place to Bainbridge that it requires a special set of rules and regulations that the rest of the town does not offer. He iterated that this ordinance would be a tool for the Downtown Development Authority to utilize.

Resident John Dodd agreed. He’s lived in Bainbridge for the past three years and owns two buildings downtown. He previously lived in Huntsville, Alabama, and referred City Council to them. He told the council Huntsville faced a lot of the issues Bainbridge faced, with vacant buildings and such. However, in 2012 Huntsville created an entertainment district with open container and Dodd said it took off like a skyrocket.

“They had five new brewpubs that opened within two years,” Dodd said. “We already have interest for two buildings here. It was very successful for Huntsville, and it’s a good illustration for what can happen here.”

Councilwoman Palmer was not convinced, though. She was concerned about a restaurant serving alcohol or a meal at the tables in Willis Park. She does not believe that is an extension of their business, but more so public property. She thinks it would be a liability to put the city in a position where something could happen on their property.

Councilwoman Glennie Bench disagreed, saying she thought it was an excellent ordinance to consider.

“The opportunity to be able to serve on the sidewalk or in the park is a great thing,” Bench said. “If we have multiple restaurants fighting over serving in Willis Park, then I would say that’s a high quality problem to have.”

Councilman Phil Long was not necessarily against the ordinance, but he didn’t believe there should be a law for open container that applies in some areas and doesn’t apply in others.

Bench, Councilman Kregg Close and Councilman Don Whaley all voted “yes” with Bench saying that the amendment was flexible enough to expand as needed, especially with the developments happening along the river.