Carbondale creates open container district

Ryan Summerlin
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

In a split vote, Carbondale trustees approved an open container district on Main Street for the three summer First Fridays events, allowing event-goers to take alcoholic beverages from liquor-serving establishments into the street.

According to Town Manager Jay Harrington, the important thing to remember is that the board’s action on Tuesday night was simply the enabling legislation to allow the districts to be created. To actually have to “entertainment district,” an applicant will have to present their event plan to the board and get approval, he explained.

That application will have to include details about security and regulation of alcohol, and will give the board another opportunity to tighten up its requirements for the entertainment district.

The ordinance specifically establishes that the entertainment district will be for First Fridays in June, July and August. Trustees have in previous meetings suggested that, if the events go well, they may allow the open container district to run into later months.

The entertainment district would be on the Main Street right of way, spanning from Weant Boulevard to Snowmass Drive and operating from 5-9 p.m.

State statute also requires that the open container district provide disposable cups, though the Carbondale Chamber has proposed using stainless steel cups. Harrington said that the Colorado Department of Revenue does not have a precise definition of “disposable,” and that the department leaves it up to the licensing authority (in this case the town) to determine what is disposable.

Andrea Stewart, Carbondale Chamber director, proposed that the stainless steel cups could be a “seasonal disposable cup,” in that they could be used for the three summer First Friday events, then disposed of. Ultimately, it will be up to the board, when an application is submitted, whether the applicant has met the “disposable” requirement, said Harrington.

Another local requirement is also that each cup has a unique number, so a cup can be traced back to its purchaser. The chamber has also proposed stickers, a distinct sticker for each participating bar, which would be stacked on top of each other on the cup, so you could identify which was the last bar to serve a person.

Stewart estimates that about 60 percent of the cups would be sold in June, then 30 percent in July and finally 10 percent in August. They are estimating that they can sell around 3,000 cups over that three-month period, though Stewart thought the event could still break even if they sold only half that number.

But the board emphasized that these first three months are a test run, to prove that this kind of event can go off without a hitch.

“I want to reiterate that his is definitely a test, those three months,” said Trustee Heather Henry. And the goal to meet is not in cup sales but rather to not erode the family-friendly character of the event, she added.

Trustees Frosty Merriott and Marty Silverstein voted against the creation of the entertainment district, citing concern from many Carbondalians that allowing alcohol in the street will degrade the family atmosphere of First Fridays.

Merriott explained that he was voting against the ordinance, mainly to initiate the conversation about what kind of message the town was promoting — though he added that he was in favor of experimenting with the open container district and that he would flip his vote if the ordinance was going to fail. “I will vote against it, but I’m not against it happening,” he said.

Some trustees said that residents had approached them saying the open container district is a bad idea. Merriott brought into the conversation some personal experience of a friend who died of an overdose and warned that alcohol issues should not be taken lightly.

“You may not have had a friend die of an overdose, but statistically you will,” he said. “It’s really important that we’re careful of what message we’re sending,”

Silverstein, too, said that he fully expected the ordinance to pass, and that he hopes the experiment goes well and finds his concerns were unjustified.

Though security would work the entries and exits, while police would patrol the area, given the public concern and potential difficulty in regulating alcohol at the event, trustees said that volunteer “peace patrols” will be an important piece of the entertainment district.