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Fairhope entertainment district proposal back on the table

(IMG: WPMI)

The proposal to create an entertainment district in downtown Fairhope during special events is back on the table.

The idea is to make it legal for people to leave restaurants and bars and walk around outside while carrying alcoholic beverages.

The ordinance gained steam after several downtown businesses were heavily fined by the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control Board during special events in 2017.

However, it failed to pass in January of 2018 after a vote was split 2-2 between members of the city council.

Fairhope Councilman Robert Brown was out of town during a vote on the matter.

"Business owners have been contacting several council members here recently, especially with the holidays, New Years and Mardi Gras season. They’d like to see another effort made. They've got a petition with a couple thousand people that want this," said Brown.

Brown believes the ordinance would take pressure off businesses and law enforcement by allowing police officers to focus on the true troublemakers instead of everyone carrying an alcoholic drink.

City officials said the ordinance would only be in effect one hour prior until one hour after any special event.

"This city council has no desire to turn downtown Fairhope into a Dauphin Street, or Bourbon Street. I think a majority of Fairhope doesn't mind walking down the street during Art Walk or the Christmas Parade," Brown said.

The ordinance has overwhelming support from business owners and other locals are also proponents of the move.

But not everyone is in favor of an entertainment district, even if it's only during special events.

Councilman Kevin Boone was one of two votes against the proposal. He has called it a slippery slope toward enacting an all year entertainment district.

Fairhope resident Billy Wise agrees.

"The next thing that would happen is 'Well, this thing is working so well, we get all these people downtown, lets just open it up to every week’," said Wise.

Wise rallied against the ordinance last year and is doing the same this time. He believes the proposal, even during special events, would set a bad precedent.

"Fairhope bills itself as a quaint, charming, family friendly town. Having open drinking of alcohol on the streets doesn't align with that family friendly view of the city," Wise said.

Brown said if the ordinance is approved and they have problems, the city council wouldn't mind doing away with it altogether.

The ordinance will be reintroduced at Monday's council meeting at 6 p.m. and public comments will be heard.

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