It seemed like a great idea and a perfect fit.
A statewide bill was recently passed, allowing for the creation of drinkinâ€™ districts in municipalities with already defined downtown areas or Main Street programs, like our beloved little LoDa. This would essentially allow for folks to walk around said district with their Red Stripes or White Russians or any alcoholic beverage of their choosing, as long as said beverage was not in a glass container.
But there would be just one catch: the bill would only allow for the Port City to have two one-mile by one half-mile districts.
OK, not ideal for our rather sizable downtown, but even with this odd stipulation, surely we could make this work. We could simply create two CONTIGUOUS districts containing the area with the greatest density of bars, restaurants and nightclubs. We should be able to determine this area with a rather simple analysis. Done and Done. Easy peasy LoDa-neasy.
Like seemingly everything else they do, the city council, (this time along with the Downtown Mobile Alliance), over-debated and over-complicated something that should have been so obvious. And on March 5, the council voted to create not only two disconnected, disjointed weirdo entertainment districts, but also an even weirder de facto "un-entertainment districtâ€ť for two blocks â€” a no manâ€™s land on Dauphin Street between Cedar and Franklin Streets, excluding two establishments, The Alabama Music Box and The Haberdasher.
It makes no sense whatsoever.
Some have suggested it was deliberately drawn this way to leave the Alabama Music Box out since AMBâ€™s owner has had a contentious relationship with his neighbors in the past. And, unfortunately, The Haberdasher was just an innocent bar-stander in the process.
The DMA maintains the residents and other business owners in the area didnâ€™t want these blocks included, though several other bar owners have very publicly insisted they would have never asked for the maps to be drawn in this fashion.
But even if all the residents and other bar owners were begging, kicking and screaming for there to be two separate districts, strong leaders should have climbed on top of their bar stools and led by saying, "Iâ€™m sorry, guys, but two separate districts would just create a huge, confusing mess, and we have to do whatâ€™s best for the greater good of the Lower Dauphin Entertainment District.â€ť
Council president Reggie Copeland did make this argument and abstained from the vote, so this big olâ€™ mess passed, with the remaining six councilors voting in favor of it.
So essentially, patrons who get a drink on one end of LoDa and who do not pour their drinks out when they enter the "un-entertainment districtâ€ť will technically be violating the law for two blocks.
One official expressed that they just hoped the Alabama Beverage Control officers would not enforce the law in these two blocks.
So we are now making policy which puts our citizens AND the tourists we so desperately crave in a position to inadvertently violate the law, and we just have to HOPE the ABC officers donâ€™t really enforce it.
Come on. Do you guys not remember all the problems and grief the ABC Board caused just a few years ago? Storming into downtown establishments in riot gear like the gestapo, harassing patrons for their papers, (AKA IDs and private club membership cards), while checking to make sure every bar was in compliance with every obscure ordinance on their books.
And these are the people we want to trust to just look the other way?
Not to mention, Mobileâ€™s chief of police seemed less-than-enthusiastic (and thatâ€™s putting it mildly) about having to deal with these new districts, so who is to say how they will actually enforce it.
I guess we'll just have to take our chances.
These districts were designed to make the areas more tourist-friendly, but coupled with the most confusing downtown smoking ordinance on the planet, these policies are more like tourist-infuriating.
You need an instruction manual just to navigate downtown. Oh wait. Perhaps we can offer one of sorts on the sides of the sanctioned LoDa paper outdoor drinking cups.
It would look something like this:
Welcome to Downtown Mobile.
If you are reading this before 4 p.m. or after 2:30 a.m., please follow regular olâ€™ downtown law. (Please consult the municipal codes of Mobile if you have any questions about what those laws are. What? You donâ€™t know where to find that? Iâ€™m sure you can Google it on your fancy Smartphone. Geez!)
If you are indeed reading this during the hours between 4 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., please continue. You may pass go and collect your paper drinkinâ€™ cup.
Might we suggest, you get an adult cocktail at one of our fine Upper LoDa establishments, like The Garage, Bike Shop or Moeâ€™s.
You are welcome to leave any of these establishments with one of their delicious cocktails as long as it is in an approved cup.
Drink FAST or Walk SLOW on your way to the next bar or restaurant.
DO NOT even think about walking in The Bull, Wintzellâ€™s or Oâ€™Dalyâ€™s with your aforementioned Garage, Moeâ€™s or Bike Shop cup oâ€™ booze. Please dispose of your cup in one of the shiny new garbage receptacles placed along the streets of the entertainment district.
After disposing of your old drink and purchasing a new drink at another one of these fine establishments, please continue on with your new booze cup down Dauphin. When you get to Cedar Street, please discard your cup in one of the aforementioned new garbage receptacles.
Please continue past the Alabama Music Box and The Haberdasher, sans cup, to Franklin Street.
Congratulations. You are now allowed to drink booze out of a paper cup outside again, provided it is still between the hours of 4 p.m. and 2:30 a.m.
You may now grab a drink at Buckâ€™s Pizza. You may take it outside in your newest drinking cup, but please stay on the north side of the street because drinking in Cathedral Square is prohibited.
Once you get past Cathedral Square, make sure to grab another drink at Heroes, Hayleyâ€™s, Boo Radleyâ€™s, or one of Lower LoDaâ€™s other fabulous watering holes.
Please stay on the south side of the street for the next three blocks until you pass Bienville Square, where drinking outside is also prohibited.
You want to have a smoke with your cocktail? Oh Lord. You should really just quit right now, because it is so complicated, it just isnâ€™t worth it.
We hope you have enjoyed your complicated journey through downtown Mobile. Please come back. Please.
The city councilors says they plan to revisit the entertainment district ordinance and amend it until it works, and I hope they do, and do so quickly. Iâ€™m sure everyone involved has the best intentions, but this is just silly.
All these spotty, confusing, contradictory, practically un-enforceable laws put everyone involved in a bad position. Allow people to drink outside in a clearly defined area that makes some sense or donâ€™t at all. And that goes for the smoking ban as well, allow people to smoke downtown or donâ€™t.
It doesnâ€™t have to be so complicated. Easy peasy LoDa-neasy.