Save this content for laterSave this content on your device for later, even while offline Sign in with FacebookSign in with your Facebook account Close

Entertainment districts would be business friendly, but require trust and community support

September 4, 2017 Updated: September 5, 2017 at 6:21 am
0
Caption +
A customer leaves Bristol Brewing Company Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, past the no alcohol sign at the Ivywild School in Colorado Springs. The Colorado Springs City Council is considering a law that would allow businesses to apply for the creation of entertainment districts which would allow customers to carry a drink from Bristol down the hall to the Principal's Office bar on the other side of Ivywild School. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

It takes trust to let someone carry a beer from one business to another, to drink on the sidewalks or on a closed street.

Trust and an entertainment district.

The Colorado Springs City Council now is considering laws that would let businesses apply to create entertainment districts in which customers could wander, drink in hand, beyond the business' boundaries. A council vote is set for Sept. 12.

For some, the notion brings to mind drunken scenes such as on the Las Vegas Strip or on New Orleans' Bourbon Street. But advocates say safeguards can prevent such debauchery, and the districts would be business-friendly, money-making opportunities for the city and entrepreneurs alike.

A police representative declined to comment on the council's pending decision, but entertainment districts in other Colorado cities haven't significantly increased crime, officials in those cities say.

Mike Bristol, owner of Bristol Brewing Co. and a partner in the Ivywild School, said he plans to apply for an entertainment district for the building. The brewery and Principal's Office bar are across the hall, and laws barring customers from walking between the two serve no purpose, he said.

Visitor David Bartley, of Austin, Texas, said he likes that idea for the Ivywild School, though the change could have broader implications.

"It's silly not to be able to walk across that line," Bartley said. "But if you do it here, you have to do it everywhere."

John Mrazek, who frequents the school monthly, said the move makes sense.

"There's no reason you shouldn't be able to walk back and forth," Mrazek said. "People are going to do it anyway. And to use police officers to patrol these areas or buildings is a waste of money and resources."

Council members have said they expect a slow roll-out for entertainment districts, if the laws pass. They don't intend to transform Tejon Street downtown into an untethered party zone.

If the laws pass, Colorado Springs would be the largest city in the state to allow the creation of entertainment districts. Today, people can't take alcoholic beverages beyond the set boundaries of a business. Even beer tents at special events have boundaries.

The entertainment districts - allowed by state law since 2011 - would be in tightly secured, closed-off areas.

Glendale Deputy City Manager Chuck Line said he helped his city of 4,500 opt in three years ago.

That city, in Denver's metro area, now has a 67-acre entertainment district, Line said. It lets businesses band as a "promotional association" to apply for creation of a common consumption area. The process is so complicated, though, that it motivates businesses to keep themselves and customers in line with state and local laws, he said.

"You're putting your faith in other people, and you don't necessarily control their actions. So there's a lot of trust in people built into those agreements."

In Colorado Springs, virtually anybody could petition to create an entertainment district under the proposed laws, City Clerk Sarah Johnson said. State laws require the districts to have clearly marked perimeters and staff at entrances and exits.

The city's special events guidelines already provide many of the rules that should be in place, Johnson said.

Once a district is created, at least two liquor license holders would have to form a promotional association and apply to create a common consumption area. Applicants would have to canvass neighbors within a half-mile radius to assess concerns. If streets need to be closed, the application is vetted further.

Promotional associations, not the city, front the costs for barricades, staff and other requirements, Johnson said. And state law forbids motor vehicle traffic through the districts.

In Glendale, businesses haven't seen much increase in alcohol consumption with the district, Line said. "It's self-policing. They say, 'We're not going to take the risk that our liquor license could be suspended or we could lose the common consumption area because of one bad actor.'"

Plus, cities can revoke the privilege, he noted.

Greeley's one-block entertainment district, the Ninth Street Plaza, has been an economic boon with few downsides for six years, officials say.

The plaza is "perfectly set up for that, a one-way-street block with a gate that we can close off with a fence," said Alison Hamling, director of experience for the Downtown Development Authority.

Greeley's district opens on St. Patrick's Day for Blarney on the Block and then every Friday from June through September, Hamling said.

The town closes its district at 10 p.m. and hasn't experienced more crime, Hamling said.

"We've had really no drawbacks. Nothing but positive results for our downtown, economically, which is the reason for doing it in the first place," she said. "We've had new businesses come here specifically because of that. Businesses now have patios, that didn't have them before, to take advantage of it."

But in Greeley, you'll find as many ice cream cones as mugs of beer, Colorado Springs Council President Richard Skorman joked. It's a family-friendly endeavor, and that's what probably would work best for Colorado Springs, he said.

Skorman said the council's case-by-case approval process will protect against a flood of entertainnment districts.

"What we're afraid of is a situation where we allow too many of these that we would have a difficult time with security, police calls to serve and it's hard for businesses to regulate," Skorman said.

Ivywild School is a positive example for an entertainment district, he said.

Bristol said the current setup at Ivywild is "just confusing to people, and it certainly doesn't serve any safety purpose. Having another tool to be able to do some really creative projects around Colorado Springs is a great thing."

Entertainment districts and common consumption areas also could be used for large-scale events, such as the possible return of the Colorado Classic bicycle race in 2019, Johnson said.

Skorman agreed but stressed that it would be best to roll out the process slowly.

"It's up to the community on what they want and what their tolerance is for it," he said.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Incognito Mode Your browser is in Incognito mode

You vanished!

We welcome you to read all of our stories by signing into your account. If you don't have a subscription, please subscribe today for daily award winning journalism.

Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Register to the Colorado Springs Gazette
Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

It appears that you value local journalism. Thank you.

Subscribe today for unlimited digital access with 50% fewer ads for a faster browsing experience.

Subscribe to the Colorado Springs Gazette

Some news is free.
Exceptional journalism takes time, effort and your support.

Already a Subscriber? LOGIN HERE

articles remaining
×
Thank you for your interest in local journalism.
Gain unlimited access, 50% fewer ads and a faster browsing experience.