In some of the most sought-out destinations across the country, adults are free to walk in certain areas of the city with an alcoholic beverage in hand.
New Orleans, Savannah and Las Vegas are a few examples. And Frankfort could be looking to join them.
Only about a year after the city rolled back restrictions on Sunday alcohol sales, Frankfort elected leaders will be asked to consider whether downtown should pursue an “entertainment district designation” in order to allow certain open alcohol containers in specified areas — possibly encompassing from south of Broadway Street to the Kentucky River in the downtown business district — during certain times.
“This doesn’t give you the freedom to go around Frankfort at all hours drinking,” said Kelly Everman, director of Downtown Frankfort Inc. “It really sets a parameter that gives the enforcement officers a structure to work around too, which is very defined. And if you're out of a defined area at a defined time, consequences will happen.”
Many businesses in the center of the downtown business district near Broadway and St. Clair streets said this week they are in favor of the measure and see it as a potential boom for business.
"I think it would be a great stimulus," said Stuart Reagan, co-owner of Brick Alley on St. Clair. "Like anything, though, it has to be done right. We wouldn't want to impede on any of the residents or other businesses. But we'd be all for it."
Some businesses already pay the state for a license to allow alcohol on their patios and sidewalks until about 10 p.m. for smokers or people wanting to enjoy the outdoors.
Tony Bryant, owner of Trfiecta BBQ across the street, said that he and other business owners had already been tossing around ideas to bring back a "bike night" for motorcycle readers or host a block party. He said the entertainment would feed into the growth he's seen since he began doing business in Frankfort.
"We've been seeing a lot of new people milling around down here recently," Bryant said. "We don't have entertainment for the street yet, so I think it would generate more business."
Likewise, Mayor Bill May said he is all for the idea. He said part of his last campaign was to make downtown an arts and entertainment district. And any concerns about safety due to openly carrying alcohol containers could be policed, May said.
"It'll be controlled and monitored closely," he said. "Anything that will make Frankfort a destination and encourage tourism, I'm all for."
At their meeting this week, board members of DFI gave their blessing to a letter of recommendation that the city commission consider the measure. As the discussion is still in its infancy, details about the designation are scarce. But the initial idea is that it would allow the city to regulate where and when open containers would be allowed on public rights of way.
“I find it interesting that it’s not just about bars and restaurants,” Everman said. “If you operate any business, you can have wine in your shop — with proper licenses. It allows other retail shops and businesses to compete and draw people in.”
At the same time, some merchants don't see the additional competition for alcohol sales to be an issue.
"Everybody gets along down here," said Carlos Ceballos, manager of Serafini restaurant at St. Clair and Broadway. "We work together."
The movement to lift restrictions on alcohol sales on Sundays a little more than a year ago started with a push from businesses wanting the ability to keep alcohol sales local as well as the taxes that contribute to local government. And the movement toward an entertainment designation, with the help of DFI, appears to be geared toward promoting businesses in the downtown business district.
The topic arose just as the Sunday alcohol sales issue had been settled about a year ago, when Everman was informed by Kentucky’s Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) board that some Frankfort events had been enjoying the benefits of a “entertainment district designation” but were not actually in compliance with the law.
“They said you’ve been lucky the police have worked with you on summer concerts and open containers,” Everman said. “And they’re usually pretty good about it unless you’re acting the fool. At the time, I filed it away and didn't act on it.”
Everman said she was then approached by the mayor and Terri Bradshaw, head of Kentucky Capital Development Corp., the community's economic development agency, about bringing the events into compliance while benefiting other businesses. Everman declined to say whether failing to obtain the designation would put alcohol sales at events such as the Downtown Summer Concert Series in jeopardy.
She and Bradshaw did reach out to other communities about possible dissent to look out for in introducing the idea to the public.
“They probably think we’re insane, but we’re in these conversations asking what people object to — the people who fight this — what are their objections,” Bradshaw said. “And they said nobody fights this. This is a business promotion. Why would people fight this? … They couldn’t understand why we would ask that question.”
The two found that other smaller cities in Kentucky — Owensboro, Maysville and Covington — have similar designations in place. They selected a larger area in their respective cities to receive the designation from the state and then the local governments determine what areas are "activated" as entertainment districts for events or festivals, Bradshaw said.
“We are going to apply for a pretty large squared-off area that includes the riverfront,” she said. “So our request to the ABC will be a square that encompasses all the downtown central business district. But you can turn it off and on.”
With a large entertainment district designation approved by the state, Frankfort could activate isolated areas within the district at different times for different events. Some cities opt to leave certain areas activated as entertainment districts at all times to encourage business flow, Bradshaw said.
Everman said that in her lifetime in Frankfort she has not seen as much potential for growth as there is now. She said the move toward an entertainment district designation would be a continuation of that growth.
“This isn’t about encouraging people to drink,” Everman said. “It’s about continuing the economic momentum of Frankfort.”