Gainesville commissioners vote to create entertainment district downtown
GAINESVILLE, Fla. (WCJB) - The pandemic-era freedom to drink alcohol outdoors in Gainesville is likely ending, and a more structured set of rules could replace it.
On Thursday, the Gainesville City Commission voted 4 to 3 on a first reading to repeal an ordinance allowing open containers. Commissioners Saco, Willits, and Eastman voted in dissent.
The ordinance was created during the pandemic to allow people to drink alcohol outside to encourage social distancing and help businesses in Gainesville. The ordinance has faced backlash due to a rise in crime in the city.
Several Gainesville artists and downtown business owners spoke during the meeting about how implementing the ban would hurt them financially.
“That’s what this business does, they sell beer and wine and they host music. If we weren’t we wouldn’t be able to be paid, or the crowd wouldn’t stay as long if that wasn’t something that they can do,” Thomas Allain, Late Night lead singer.
The commission then took up the issue of creating an entertainment district downtown that would allow alcohol in the area. The idea was first proposed by Mayor Harvey Ward.
The commission voted 6 to 1 to advance the proposal. Commissioner Book was in dissent.
Commissioner Eastman pushed to extend the hours alcoholic beverages would be allowed from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. He also motioned to name the district Arts Culture Entertainment (ACE).
The plan from staff had originally set borders from Northeast 6th Avenue to Depot Park (north to south), and from the Power District and SE 7th Street to SW 6th Street (east to west), commissioners have directed the map be simplified. They also want the selected areas to include the commercial portion of Grove Street.
The open container ban and the proposed district must be voted against at the Oct. 26 city commission meeting.
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