Restaurants in Porterdale could soon serve beer and wine on sidewalks cafe style if a proposal to allow open containers outside becomes law.
The Porterdale City Council will consider two draft ordinances next month that will allow restaurants to set up tables outside their businesses for regular business and expand the area to allow open containers during special events. Councilman Tim Savage brought the proposals up for conversation. He said the proposals are similar to laws already in place in Madison and Savannah.
The success of the river town's St. Patrick's Day celebration spurred Savage to bring the topic up for discussion during last week's council work session.
"I see this as something to keep energy in the downtown area and attract some businesses down in that alleyway where they can sit out there and have a drink," Savage said. "If we give that freedom in such a way that Savannah has to the businesses down here, it will increase sales. I think St. Patrick's Day went off without a hitch and people handled themselves quite responsibly."
Savage's initial proposal outlines boundaries in and around downtown Porterdale. One boundary would include the Yellow River bridge, north to the gym, east to the Porterdale Mill lofts and alleyway and west to the historic depot. The boundaries would expand to Crowell Park and the Yellow River Park to cover special events.
Savage added the Porterdale Police supports the measure as a way to better manage the serving of alcohol during large events.
The current ordinances restrict certain restaurants from serving customers on sidewalks. An easement for the Porterdale Lofts area allows serving customers on sidewalks but requires a structure, like a metal fence, to enclose the area. Savage said that was impractical and could impede foot traffic.
Savage suggested restaurants could use a chain to drop out each night to mark a service area, then extend open containers for special events.
Council members Linda Finger and Lowell Chambers expressed support for setting a boundary for open containers during special events but were cautious on allowing alcohol consumption outside during regular business hours.
"I'm not enthusiastic about just saying ‘throw the whole town wide open and wonder around with your hamburger and your drink,'" he said.
Mayor Arline Chapman said the council should address the daily serving of alcohol outside a way to help businesses.
"Right now, theoretically, they can not do that and serve a glass of wine. So, are we going to think about covering that aspect of it, to change it where you're not walking all over town?" she asked. "You have to drink that glass of wine in conjunction with the fact that the restaurant is located there. I think at some point in time if we are going to encourage restaurants and cafes to come in, we're going to have to address that, so we might as well address it now and take care of it in one adjustment rather than halfway and having to do it over again."
Chambers suggested breaking Savage's proposal into two in order to clarify what the town's goals are in serving alcohol on sidewalks. He believes the proposal could work if restaurants can staff the area to handle the business and the town restricts people to on-site consumption.