Proposed limits on an ordinance essentially allowing an open-container zone in downtown Rome were not enough to get it passed by the City Commission on Monday evening.
After hearing from community pastors, business owners, and other residents, and discussing the issue for about an hour, the board voted 5 to 3 against public consumption of alcohol downtown.
The ordinance included restrictions such as having the alcohol in a Downtown Development Authority-approved plastic cup no bigger than 16 ounces, and ending public consumption at 10 p.m. each day, which was recommended by the DDA at its meeting last week.
The vote was taken after an amendment to the original proposal that limited the length of the ordinance to 60 days, a suggestion made by Commissioner Jamie Doss.
Commissioner Wendy Davis made the motion to approve, which was seconded by Commissioner Mark Cochran. Commissioners Craig McDaniel, Jim Bojo, Sundai Stevenson, Bonny Askew, and Randy Quick voted against the motion. Davis, Cochran and Doss voted for it.
The Alcohol Control Commission had asked the city commission to revisit the ordinance, which was previously voted down by the board in October 2017. It was to be on a temporary basis, to help downtown restaurants and bars struggling as a result of having less business than normal during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The district specified in the ordinance would have included the area of Broad Street from East Sixth Avenue to East First Avenue, Bridgepoint Plaza, across the Oostanaula River to West Third Street and down to North Fifth Avenue.
“I get it. The businesses downtown are hurting. The restaurants that serve alcohol are hurting,” Askew said. “For me to assume that someone who buys a cup of alcohol from one business and walks around town would increase the business of all of the businesses downtown, I’m not buying it. It has to be something other than this is going to save some businesses.”
Among the concerns brought up by both public speakers and the commissioners was the ability of the Rome Police Department to enforce the ordinance and maintain the public’s safety while downtown.
Chief Denise Denise Downer-McKinney said it would be difficult, adding that they are 10 officers short of full employment and would have to move officers from other parts of the city to regulate it.
The chief also mentioned the comparison some supporters made with the public consumption allowed at downtown block parties during the summer. She said they hire eight to 10 off-duty officers to help with those events because alcohol is allowed.
“So, we don’t have eight to 10 officers to put downtown on a weekly basis,” she said.