Businesses in Denver selling alcohol may soon be creating spaces for drinkers to wander outside – open containers and everything – as long as they stay within the boundaries of the area.
According to Ashley Kilroy, director of excise duties and licenses in Denver, companies can band together in what are known as common areas of consumption and set clearly defined boundaries within which customers can move freely with their alcoholic beverages.
Don’t think about the Las Vegas Strip or New Orleans, which have open containers pretty much anywhere, like the Ivywild School in Colorado Springs or Greeley’s one-block Ninth Street Plaza, Kilroy said.
“It’s not just about drinking and partying, we want it to be about placemaking and community building.” She said.
Denver is about a decade late for the game. State lawmakers legalized the concept in 2011 and Denver city council agreed to allow it in late 2019, Kilroy said. But as the pandemic spread and companies closed or lowered capacity limits, the idea took a back seat to more immediate priorities.
City officials completed the joint application process for consumption on Wednesday morning, along with some additional rules.
These areas are unlikely to show up all over the city, noted Kilroy. Interested companies must band together to apply, and they would only be allowed within entertainment districts that require city council approval to form. These districts must be located in areas of the city that have sufficient corporate density to support at least 20,000 square feet of licensed liquor premises.
This means that most of the viable areas for such a district would be in business-intensive areas compared to residential areas.
An example would be the Dairy Block in Lower Downtown, the Frank Bonanno, who owns and operates the 16 stores at the Denver Milk Market, who wants to make the people who wander with their libations friendlier.
Companies in the block already offer customers some sort of consolidated or unified experience, Bonanno said, but a shared consumer space would cement that even further.
“If you wanted to buy a drink and go to the Maven Hotel and go to your room, you could.” Said Bonanno. “You could buy a drink at our Moo Bar and go to Foraged for dinner.”
In the nearby River North Arts District, the idea of a shared consumption area was new, but intriguing to Jonah Munson, owner of The Walnut Room, a pizzeria and music venue.
There are enough people in the neighborhood already that a common consumption area could certainly help businesses, Munson said, though he is unlikely to pursue such a license.
Ismael De Sousa, owner of Reunion Bread Co., just a few blocks away, called the idea “beautiful”. Although the bakery does not have a liquor license, inclusion in a common consumption area would benefit all companies involved, he said.
Once the rules are in place, companies can request the creation of a common consumption area within 90 days, according to Molly Duplechian, a policy analyst in Kilroy’s office. The department will ask the Denver City Council to cut this time in half so that the application process may be open by the end of July.
Companies with joint consumption licenses would be responsible for following the city’s rules and making sure customers don’t leave the area’s borders, Kilroy said. The department may suspend or revoke licenses from companies that violate these terms.