Rome Downtown Development Authority board members said they’re feeling good about the open container district trial period after seeing an increase in business over the first month.
DDA Director Aundi Lesley collected data from two retailers and three restaurants on weekend foot traffic and sales increase for the month of August. The increase varies, she said, with one retailer recording a 28% increase in sales and another recording a 95% increase compared to August 2020.
Two of the other participating businesses compared their sales to August 2019 to get a better gauge on the increase, noting that the 2020 pandemic year saw noticeably fewer people out and about.
“This was very encouraging,” Lesley said. “We’ve been trying to get a better gauge on how COVID is affecting our businesses.”
One restaurant had a 23% overall increase compared to August 2019. The other broke it into food sales and alcohol sales — a 70% increase and 26% increase respectively.
The third restaurant reported a 10% overall increase compared to previous months.
“Nobody necessarily thinks that business is booming because of open container, but it’s definitely helping at least to enhance the customer experience,” she said. “Everyone’s been getting a lot of good feedback from customers.”
Ball Container donated 4,200 aluminum cups to participating downtown businesses when the trial began and 2,760 cups have been distributed so far.
Lesley said she may order another 1,000 to 1,500 cups to help the DDA get through the rest of the trial, which is scheduled to end on Oct. 30.
The DDA has also been getting mostly good feedback on the cups, Lesley said — with a few complaints that the cups get “too cold” and others saying it’s difficult to do a standard wine pour. Some businesses have opted to use small plastic cups with logos on them for wine sales.
Rome police also reported that there haven’t been any alcohol-related issues downtown so far. There was one incident where people used aluminum cans when walking around the Town Green and another incident where someone tried to use a glass.
Rome’s downtown becomes an open container district on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Open containers are permitted only in public places, such as sidewalks and the Town Green, but not in parking lots or the three downtown parking decks.
Once the trial expires, Lesley will gather all the data from the participating businesses and put together a report for the Rome City Commission. It’ll then be up to city commissioners on whether to make it permanent.