Ocala City Council votes to move forward with ‘open container’ ordinance

Published: Oct. 5, 2021 at 6:49 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - Open container is on the table.

It’s a controversial topic that Gainesville City leaders have taken up and now the Ocala City Council says they’re ready to take on that challenge as well.

The proposal would allow businesses to sell alcohol outside of their restaurant or bar, during an approved city event.

Currently, only a non-profit organization may be granted a temporary permit to sell alcoholic beverages at outdoor events in downtown Ocala, but that’s likely to change.

Licensed restaurants and bars are not allowed to sell alcohol for consumption off premises, but this ordinance would allow them do to so in certain cases.

This would only impact businesses within the ‘Downtown Ocala Event Zone’ which covers 34 blocks including the Downtown Square, Citizen’s Circle and the Downtown Market.

The ‘Downtown Ocala Event Zone' would cover 34 blocks including the Downtown Square, Citizen's...
The ‘Downtown Ocala Event Zone' would cover 34 blocks including the Downtown Square, Citizen's Circle and the Downtown Market.(City of Ocala)

We spoke to some who said this sounds like a good idea.

“As long as people are responsible and nobody’s breaking anything or causing any hazard anywhere, I think that it would be a really good thing that a lot of people would probably enjoy and possibly attract more people to the downtown area,” Olivia Dellaporta who lives and works in Ocala said.

Others said this decision could exclude some residents from participating.

“To have it in a public setting outside of a building, in an open area, where we as people in recovery may wants to come and enjoy a show and have to see someone with an open container of alcohol, it may be triggering to our recovery. There’s a lot of places that we can’t go because they’re serving alcohol,” Executive Director of Zero Hour Life Center, Robert Cooper said.

All four council members voted yes to move forward with the ordinance during Tuesday night’s meeting. It will now go before the Florida Delegation, if approved by the Florida House, it will then move forward to the Florida Governor’s office.

It will have to go through several approval processes before it goes into effect.

During the meeting councilman Justin Grabelle said he was thinking about the businesses who would benefit from the change, while Mayor Guinn said this would have a negative impact on the Police Department.

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