Merchants want open container changes - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Merchants want open container changes

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Albany-- Some downtown developers and merchants want to turn downtown Albany into the entertainment capital of Southwest Georgia.

For that to happen, they say some changes need to be made. They want city commissioners to pass an ordinance to allow people to carry alcoholic drinks throughout a designated entertainment district downtown.

Ryan Ellsworth is like most 20-somethings. "I like to go out, have a drink, have fun, go to clubs, go to bars and see live music."

And he often comes downtown to enjoy that entertainment. Some downtown merchants are asking for changes to some city ordinances so customers, like Ellsworth, can walk from one business to another without having to pour out their alcoholic drinks.

"This will increase the desire of people to come be entertained and stay in Albany," says Phil Cannon, downtown merchant. Attorney and Downtown Merchant's Association member Phil Cannon asked city commissioners to specify downtown as an entertainment district and allow open containers within certain boundaries. "They can go to bars or clubs and walk to hotel without worrying about getting in trouble for open container or drinking and driving," says Cannon.

Cities like Savannah, Columbus, and Pensacola-- where Ellsworth's from-- already allow open containers in the entertainment district. "It deters people from having to drive across town after they gone out and had a go time," he says.

There are rules. The beverage must be in an unmarked, recyclable container and can't be more than 16 ounces. And, loitering outside with drinks isn't allowed. "The wording of the ordinance is specifically designed not to encourage groups drinking in a parking lot or park, that's not allowed," said Cannon.

City commissioner Bob Langstaff says now is the time to consider changes to the entertainment district. "We've got more and more business coming into downtown. The hotel is going to open soon so this is our time to make a statement in respect to tourism in Albany," Langstaff said.

A statement merchants hope will allow entertainment to thrive and bringing The proposed ordinance would also repeal a law that doesn't allow a bar to open within 250 feet of another bar.

City Commissioners told Phil Cannon to meet with Albany Tomorrow to come up with the entertainment district and other rules.

posted by dave.miller@walb.com