Entertainment districts are likely to become part of the Colorado Springs landscape, said City Councilor Don Knight, but in what form they’ll be approved is still up for discussion.
The Colorado Springs Liquor and Beer Licensing Board unanimously voted Aug. 18 to pass proposed amendments to the City Liquor Code, and city council had its first reading of an ordinance that would permit entertainment districts Aug. 22.
A second reading by city council is scheduled for Sept. 26 and Knight predicts it will pass handily.
“I don’t know if it’ll be unanimous, but I think it’ll be a clear majority,” he said. “The real meat is going to come with how we set up the process for applying for an entertainment district. It won’t be an ordinance; it’ll be council procedures or something like that.”
If council passes the amendment, an entertainment district will allow “common consumption areas” to be operated by a “promotional association.”
Each request will be handled separately, Knight said. And the requests could vary wildly — from shutting down Tejon Street with multiple businesses coordinating the event, to allowing customers to carry alcohol from one establishment to another designated district inside Ivywild School, where patrons currently can’t take alcohol from one establishment down the hall to a different retail outlet.
“The nuances are going to be in how many times a year, and what are the hours we’re going to allow,” Knight said.
Susan Edmondson, president and CEO of Downtown Partnership of Colorado Springs, cited issues such as security, safety, nearby residents and hours of operation — but also voiced approval for the idea.
“The Downtown Partnership supports entertainment district legislation,” she said. “We want to make sure this becomes a possibility for small businesses.”
But she believes there should be limits.
“We certainly don’t want something that shuts down Tejon Street on a permanent basis,” she said. “At times is fine, but not weekly or daily.”
“When they’re done right, they’re awesome,” Lee said. “This is going to be an exciting thing. Education is always the toughest element for citizens to wrap their brain around because this isn’t part of their daily walk.”
It’s a good idea for council to review each request, Edmondson said.
“They can decide what makes sense and what doesn’t for each applicant,” she said. “I can see two or three restaurants who share a central courtyard or patio taking advantage of this. You get pizza and I get tacos, and we share a cocktail in the same space.”
Lee likes giving local business owners a chance to expand.
“I think the more opportunity we provide for business owners and citizens to get involved and create cultural and entertainment activities in spaces that don’t have them lets us get multiple uses out of our city,” he said. “It provides an opportunity for citizens to be creative.”
Lee and Knight both pointed to Ivywild as a potential beneficiary of the ordinance.
“I went there last week, and it’s a perfect fit for this,” Knight said.
Lee echoed that sentiment: “Right now they have two liquor licenses there, one’s a manufacturing [license] for Bristol Brewing Co. and the other one is a standard one for The Principal’s Office. They have signs posted everywhere — here’s the boundary line for this license, and you can’t take stuff back and forth. This would offer them an opportunity to create a homogenized space.”
Council must still decide how to approach the idea.
“To me, this is more analogous to a land-use decision than an alcohol decision,” Knight said. “Therefore, the public process should be the same as when we do a land-use decision. Specifically, I want to hear from people inside the district — because it’s not all bars — and I want to hear from people 500 feet around the district. Some might be residents, some might be churches; I know it can’t be schools.”
Knight suggested 10 p.m. might be the proper cutoff time, and said he wouldn’t support the ordinance if the state hadn’t previously made entertainment districts legal. Greeley was the first city to take advantage of the new state law and create an entertainment district.
“I’ll be supporting it, but I’m not a champion for the idea,” Knight said. “My concern is: Do we need another place where people can drink and walk the streets? I’d just as soon not have them but since the state has allowed it … if we control it properly, it’ll be advantageous to the businesses and their customers.”
To the local economy, he figures, it won’t matter much.
“It’ll mean more income to the individual bars,” Knight said, “but overall, I don’t think it’ll be much of an economic difference.”