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Appeal to the City Commission: Reject downtown alcohol expansion

Editorial

Downtown Rome has become a family friendly destination for dining and entertainment, offering a wide variety of community interests — the Robert Redden Foot Bridge and Town Green with its fountain, Barron Stadium, tennis courts, unique retail establishments and restaurants, government offices, churches and more.

Downtown is an asset that has well served our community for many years. But now it is threatened by the proposed expansion of public consumption of alcohol in the downtown area. The proposed ordinance amendment would create a district where adults could drink alcoholic beverages as they shop or walk on the Town Green — until late at night seven days a week. Under the existing ordinance, alcoholic drinks are permitted only at special block parties.

The City Commission will consider the ordinance change at its Monday meeting. The decision by our city leaders will have far-reaching effects that could bring unwanted and unneeded changes to our enjoyable downtown area.

The proposal comes under the heading of a solution in search of a problem.

There’s no doubt that the existing ordinance is well balanced and presents no problems in inconveniencing most people, in our view. Some of the downtown restaurant/bar owners have told the Rome News-Tribune that downtown becomes a different place after 9 p.m. It would be even more different under the proposed ordinance change. If approved, the proposal has the potential to change of the entire face of downtown.

There’s no doubt that when alcohol begins to cause problems for someone, the person usually has an alcohol problem. Likewise, if the ordinance change is approved, the City of Rome is headed for a problem that it does not want and one that the city should not have to experience.

Comparing Rome’s situation to the alcohol ordinances in other cities misses the mark because of the growing number of private residences in our downtown area. Presently there are 188 residential homes and an additional 26 under construction. Consideration must also be given to the additional 548 residences in the Between the Rivers District. The Forrest Hotel, West Lofts and The Griffin usually have no vacancies, and many local couples and newcomers are choosing to make their homes in what is becoming an eclectic and unique community.

Above and beyond these considerations, the commissioners must be most concerned about the recommendation of the police chief, assistant chief and other law enforcement officials who are opposed to the ordinance change. They and their officers will be charged with keeping order for the businesses and residents if the commission approves the proposed expansion of public alcohol consumption. They maintain, and we agree, that this will result in the need for more officers. An increase in police presence inevitably will evoke more complaints about police actions. It’s tough enough being a police officer today, and the City Commission should not add to that burden by approving this ordinance.

Let’s not allow our now vibrant and appealing downtown area — which is a very important amenity for not only Downtown but all of Rome and Floyd County — to become so alcohol-centric that we lose what many business owners, professionals, governments and others have worked so hard to achieve.

The City Commission should follow the lead of our law enforcement officials and reject expansion of public alcohol consumption in downtown Rome.