Alcohol zone draws opposition - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Alcohol zone draws opposition

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Albany-- It didn't take long for controversy to start after some downtown Albany businesses requested changes to the open container laws. Tuesday, merchant Phil Cannon asked city commissioners to pass an ordinance allowing people to carry alcoholic drinks throughout a designated entertainment district downtown.

But a man who's invested big bucks into downtown Albany says that a bad idea. Businessman Peter Studl is building a children's theater and a pizza restaurant in this strip of stores right across from Riverfront Park. He says downtown Albany should be family-friendly and allowing open containers would hurt that image.

New parks, new attractions, and new businesses are drawing more and more people to downtown Albany. "It's nice for kids to have some place to be,"said park-goer Ashley Braley. Braley enjoys a day at Turtle Grove Playpark with her niece, Ashyln.

Downtown is no doubt turning into an entertainment Mecca, but entertainment means different things to different people. "Ours doesn't center around the large consumption of alcohol," says businessman Peter Studl, who wasn't happy to hear that other some downtown merchants want city commissioner to change the open container laws to allow people to carry alcoholic drinks from place to place within a designate area.

"I don't know what purpose it serves," he says.

Studl is spending millions to open a children's theater, a pizza restaurant, and a prayer museum downtown. "In retail, does it bring shoppers down here? Is that the audience that will cause business people to come to this market. Is this the way the community wants to define its downtown," he asked.

Absolutely not says Braley. "I would like to stay more like a playground and child development area."

Developing an entertainment plan that will make everybody happy is the goal of Albany Tomorrow President Tommy Chatmon. "Our approach is broad, inclusive of all the major stake holders downtown."

Chatmon is inviting the Downtown Merchant's Association, Historical Society, city and county planning and zoning departments, and other downtown stake holders to a planning meeting.

"So we comprehensively start looking at a zoning overlay," said Chatmon. "It would include whether or not there would be an entertainment district, where that district would be, and what could happen within that district."

The business owners who support the open container changes say drinking could be restricted from family attractions such ask the playpark. But no doubt this will be a much-debated issue.

ATI President Tommy Chatmon hopes to get the group together the first week of March so a plan could materialize within a half year or so. The ordinance proposed by downtown merchant Phil Cannon would also repeal a law that doesn't allow a bar to open within 250 feet of another bar.

posted by dave.miller@walb.com