Tahlequah Daily Press

September 1, 2013

City to mull open drinking of 3.2 beer

Staff Writer

TAHLEQUAH — jnewton@tahlequahdailypress.com

Tahlequah city councilors will hear a request next week to allow the temporary, open consumption of low-point beer in the vicinity of a two-day music festival in October.

Police Chief Nate King prepared the requested resolution, which will appear before council members during Tuesday night’s regular monthly meeting.

“I’m not sure where the idea was brought up in the past, but the idea has been proposed for an entertainment district that would allow for open consumption of 3.2 beer in a certain area at certain times,” said King. “There are mixed feelings all around – fears of the unknown.”

King said the Tahlequah Main Street Association is hosting a music festival in Norris Park Oct. 4-5, and will be asking permission to have low-point beer at the park.

Businesses in the North End District will also have live bands, and King said it’s likely visitors will want to float back and forth from businesses to the nearby festival. Shutting down that section of Muskogee Avenue would increase safety and make the test run more feasible.

“I believe this would be a good opportunity for a test run of an ordinance to allow for controlled, open consumption during the music festival in the downtown Tahlequah area,” said King. “We would block off Muskogee Avenue from Morgan Street to Goingsnake.

The festival will be at Norris Park, so people from neighboring establishments like The Grill and The Branch would be able to consume beer that they purchased at those establishments, and still be part of the music festival.”

The so-called open consumption would be allowed only within the designated area and times of the event Friday night and Saturday afternoon and evening. Those who partake would be required to have their 3.2 beer in a plastic cup provided by the establishment from which it was purchased.

The resolution “in no way allows citizens to become intoxicated in public,” the document indicates.

King said TMSA and the Tahlequah Police Department will be providing additional law enforcement officers for the music festival, regardless of whether the council approves the open-consumption request.

“I personally do not foresee any elevated alcohol-related incidents during that time in that area,” said King. “My biggest concern, initially, would be the littering, because of more people in that area for the festival and people walking around with plastic cups of beer.”

Other cities have established entertainment districts where open, controlled consumption is allowed on certain days during certain hours, King said.

“I am supporting the resolution; however, after the data is analyzed would be when we decide whether the Tahlequah Police Department would be in support of something permanent,” said King.

“Downtown businesses may be able to benefit from it, but we just have to see how it goes. After the weekend, the businesses may even say, ‘No, we don’t want to do this on a permanent basis.’”

Tahlequah Mayor Jason Nichols said he, King and other local leaders have been discussing the idea in recent weeks.

“I’m supportive of the concept of giving it a try,” said Nichols.