By Andrea Cordle
Andy Furr, the executive director of Grove City Town Center Inc., wants to bring more people into the Town Center. One way to do that he says – allow patrons to drink alcohol outdoors. Though some city leaders had reservations about this proposal, council agreed to give it a try.
At the May 20 meeting, Grove City Council approved an ordinance to create a designated outdoor refreshment area for the Town Center.
“This is an economic tool,” said Furr. “It will build the amount of people who come to the Town Center.”
According to Stephen Smith, the city’s law director, this legislation is a waiver of the city’s open container law for a designated area. If a business in the downtown area has a liquor license, it allows patrons to buy a drink and take it outside. The beverages will be poured in an identifiable plastic cup; no glass bottles allowed.
“The cup will be printed with a logo and each business will have its name on the cup,” said Furr.
According to the legislation, the designated outdoor refreshment area is approximately 15 acres in size and will include no fewer than four qualified permit holders. The city has identified nine qualified permit holders (bars and or bar/restaurants) located in the designated area.
The hours of operation will be Thursday, Friday and Saturday from 2 p.m. to midnight. The refreshment area will not be allowed to operate during several city events including Boo Off Broadway, Homecoming and the Christmas Celebration.
Furr said there are more than 30 communities in Ohio with similar legislation.
Connie Tucker, with Father Heart Ministries in Grove City spoke out against the legislation.
“This is a big concern for me spiritually,” she said.
Tucker said this proposal makes it easier to consume alcohol and she is concerned children will see people drinking in the streets.
“How does this benefit Grove City,” Tucker asked.
Even some council members expressed concern about the designated outdoor refreshment area.
“Drinking on the street is a really important issue,” said councilman Roby Schottke. “This is a big step to allow this. I am conflicted.”
Councilman Jeff Davis said he too was conflicted as alcohol abuse affects many individuals but also said this is a device to boost activity in the Town Center.
“You have to have a draw to get people in the area and there are different pieces to that, including alcohol,” said Davis.
Council did vote unanimously in favor of creating the designated outdoor refreshment area.
According to the law director, council can tweak the legislation at any time and there will be an evaluation period.
The Grove City Division of Police have been informed of this legislation and officers will provide services within the designated area. In the event many patrons are in the area, additional officers may be assigned specifically to the area. The use of foot patrol, bicycle patrol as well as the special operation bureau will be considered as alternative methods or patrolling the designated outdoor refreshment area.
The Jackson Township Fire Department will be responsible for providing fire, rescue and EMS within the area.
The city has allocated staff to make sure the area is clean. City leaders plan to install 12 additional refuse and recycling containers in the designated outdoor refreshment area.