Apr 7, 2021 - News
Denver eyes open-container "entertainment districts" to boost restaurants
A patron talks with a friend at a restaurant in Denver in 2019.
Riley Dyer, right, talks with a friend at the Carboy Winery and Logan Street restaurant in Denver in 2019. Photo: Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

Restaurants in Denver are beginning to buzz again after a dark and dreary year.

Driving the news: The city's Department of Excise and Licenses will give them a helping hand by finalizing rules Wednesday to allow common consumption areas, or "entertainment districts," where people can openly carry their booze.

  • "This program could serve as a boost for businesses in Denver during the recovery stage," department spokesperson Eric Escudero told Axios.
  • Several other Colorado cities have adopted similar programs, including Aurora, Carbondale, Central City, Fort Collins, Glendale, Greeley, Leadville, Salida and Telluride, thanks to a 2011 law passed by the state legislature.
  • The common consumption program was approved by city council in late 2019 as a five-year pilot, but the pandemic threw a wrench in plans to finalize the rules.

How it works: The common consumption areas will look like New Orleans — but on a much smaller scale.

  • You will be able to walk around with your drink and take it into neighboring retail spaces in the permitted area.
  • Each entertainment district will be restricted to 100 acres.

The state of play: Businesses could be able to join an entertainment district by late summer, Escudero said.

  • Establishing each entertainment district requires City Council approval.

What to watch: Prime spots for the entertainment districts could be Larimer Square, the Art District on Santa Fe and the Dairy Block in LoDo.

Yes, but: The kicker will be making sure the spaces work for both bars and neighbors, who worry trash, noise and over-consumption could present problems.

The big picture: Restaurant owners say revenue remains down by nearly 40% year over year, according to a March survey conducted by the Colorado Restaurant Association.

  • But the arrival of warmer weather, rising vaccination rates and fewer gathering restrictions all mean restaurateurs feel increasingly hopeful about keeping their doors open, per Denverite.

This story first appeared in the Axios Denver newsletter, designed to help readers get smarter, faster on the most consequential news unfolding in their own backyard.

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