After the Feb. 19 Public Safety Committee meeting, six Mobile City Councilors seemed to have reached an agreement that would create two entertainment districts in downtown that would allow for patrons to leave a bar or restaurant with an alcoholic beverage.
The six present councilors â€” Fred Richardson, Gina Gregory, Bess Rich, William Carroll, CJ Small and John Williams â€” all were in accordance over a form of the original ordinance when the meeting ended, but the configuration to be voted on Feb. 26 vaguely resembles the original proposal.
The two entertainment districts are still split and exclude the three blocks on Dauphin Street between Cedar and Franklin streets. This eliminates tow bars from the district, the Alabama Music Box and the Haberdasher. Carroll, who first sponsored the ordinance, and members of the Downtown Mobile Alliance, which spearheaded the effort, said the three blocks were left out because of the suggestions from downtown bar and restaurant owners and workers, residents and other business owners.
"This is what the people surveyed wanted,â€ť Carroll said. "This was not created by the alliance or me.â€ť
The original ordinance called for patrons to be able to take out a 16 oz., paper cup with either the establishmentâ€™s or LoDaâ€™s logo on it at any point. Richardson however recommended time constraints, which would also help ease the cost of adding more police to the area.
Ultimately the councilors agreed the timeframe for the open container law to be in effect should be from 6:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. This was done because it coincides with a police shift and would only require one shiftâ€™s worth of extra officers instead of two or more.
Mobile Police Chief Micheal Williams said this would cut the costs, but any extra funding need would pose a problem.
"This is a new item that is not budgeted and itâ€™s got to come from someplace,â€ť he said. "The problem is I donâ€™t have it budgeted because it wasnâ€™t there to begin with. There will need to be a budget amendment for the extra costs.â€ť
After the councilors seemingly reached an agreement, Williams asked where the money would come from. Richardson replied, "Thatâ€™s for Mayor Jones to decide.â€ť
The councilors also agreed to throw out the noise and litter stipulations in the ordinance and add that after a year, the ordinance will be looked at again.
The original proposed ordinance deals with this concern by having a noise section within it.
It stated "Persons and establishments within either district are prohibited from originating noises between 12:01 a.m. and 7 a.m. that are audible within neighboring structures with all windows and doors closedâ€ť with two exceptions such as emergency services and outdoor events with a permit by the city of Mobile.
It also reiterates the business and homeownerâ€™s responsibility to clean up litter in front of the property including the sidewalks.
Carroll said he is using some of his capital discretionary funds to purchase more trashcans for downtown. The Downtown Mobile Alliance will continue to pick up litter daily.
One issue that was a major concern for councilors was creating an environment in which homeless people could drink in parks throughout the day. While the time constraints helped, Rich encouraged the councilors to exclude the public parks from the districts.
Although it is illegal under city ordinance to drink in public parks, the state law allowing for the open containers would override any city law. To be safe, Rich asked for Bienville and Cathedral squares to be omitted, which was agreed by the council.
The ordinance with its amendments will be considered Feb. 26 during the Mobile City Council meeting.
Even though it is watered down from the original proposal, Chief Williams was concerned about the possibility of an increase in crime specifically underage drinking.
"Weâ€™ve worked really hard to keep the patrons in the clubs with beer bottles and drinks,â€ť he said. "With outside drinking, there is going to be an increase in underage drinking. I know they are talking about a paper cup that is very disposable, but my question is how disposable is it really?
"My job is to enforce the law and I might not like what the council passes, but thatâ€™s my job. And thatâ€™s what Iâ€™m going to do â€” enforce the law.â€ť