Want to walk around downtown Fairhope sipping your favorite adult beverage? Go for it. Council President Jack Burrell says although it’s not legal, he’s sure it happens all the time at events there.
“Currently, we have people drinking in the streets in Fairhope,” Burrell said. “You go to any event whatsoever — Christmas parade, whatever event you want to name. If there is the public involved there are people in Fairhope who are going to drink socially and they are going to have alcohol in a cup … and they are breaking the law.”
On Monday the Fairhope City Council once again considered making it legal to walk around town with a drink, but only during certain events. In the end, members decided to postpone a vote on the issue until the last meeting of the year, Dec. 20.
“It needs to be more finite and concrete so the police department and the restaurants know exactly what they are getting into,” Councilman Jay Robinson said.
Cities around the state have established entertainment districts in downtown and shopping districts where patrons can buy a drink from an establishment and carry it elsewhere. Orange Beach has two such districts, including The Wharf.
Fairhope is revisiting establishing such a district but only during special events such as city-sponsored parades, Mardi Gras, First Friday Art Walk and New Year’s Eve. The district would be in effect one hour before and one hour after events. Patrons who walk around with drinks would be required to use designated shatterproof cups.
About one year ago the city was again considering establishing the district but it failed in a 2-2 vote when it came to a vote in January. Burrell said the rules in place now are almost impossible to enforce. Businesses selling alcohol must monitor exits and keep patrons from leaving with drinks.
“I’m telling you, if someone wants to bring a drink out of that establishment they will get a drink out of that establishment,” Burrell said. “Unless you want people to be frisking you or patting you down, which I don’t think anybody would want to be treated like that, … that may be what it would take to stop that completely.”
On Monday, about a half dozen citizens spoke against the district with only one, Amy Pippin of Dragonfly Restaurant, speaking in favor of it.
“This will project the small downtown district businesses from facing fines due to the current open container restrictions,” Pippin said.
Resident David Shepherd said he had concerns over how to police such a wide area.
“If that business cannot control that single door, it is impossible to control that entire area,” Shepherd said.
Besides Burrell, who seemed to be in favor of the district, councilmen Robinson and Jimmy Conyers also leaned toward supporting open containers at specific events.
Councilman Kevin Boone, who was a vocal opponent the last time this came before the council, again voiced opposition.
“Basically, I don’t see the need for alcohol on the streets considering this is a family-oriented town,” Boone said.
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