A bill introduced by State Rep. James Buskey would cut some state restrictions on serving alcohol to outdoor patrons in downtown Mobile.
Addressing concerns raised by increased enforcement of rules pertaining to restaurant service on public sidewalks by the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Buskey’s HB 185 would allow for licensees in the downtown entertainment districts to serve alcohol on patios or public sidewalks directly adjacent to the establishment.
The bill would also extend an establishment’s premises to immediately int front of its doors during special events, like Mardi Gras. Buskey could not be reached for comment on the bill, but Councilman Levon Manzie said he supports the legislation, as it would cut down on some of the regulations downtown restaurant owners find “burdensome.”
“I think it’s a timely piece of legislation,” Manzie said. “I’m in support of every aspect of the legislation.”
The Downtown Mobile Alliance is also in support of the legislation, which it says will help many of the area bars and restaurants, spokeswoman Carol Hunter said.
“A lot of licensees have lost a lot of revenue,” she said.
Allowing restaurants to have sidewalk cafes, as she calls them, is important to the continued development of a thriving downtown area.
“If you’re going to develop a downtown as a tourist destination, that’s just essential,” Hunter said.
A state law that hadn’t been widely enforced came to the forefront last summer when ABC officials said they wouldn’t allow restaurant and bar owners to serve alcohol outside their premises unless they followed certain guidelines. Those guidelines included having a patio that was blocked off in some way that made it different from the public sidewalk, among other stipulations.
A spokesman for ABC said lax enforcement until last year was due to a cut in funding to the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency and the new crackdown was not due to selective enforcement.
At the time, the city reached a compromise to allow outside sales for TenSixtyFive music festival.
Buskey’s bill, which would apply only to Mobile County, would allow the city to increase the number of entertainment districts to as many as five.