At its Dec. 20 meeting, the Fairhope City Council declined to pass an ordinance that would have created an entertainment district for the city’s Central Business District.
Several residents spoke out about the proposed district, which would allow for the open carry of alcoholic beverages within certain time parameters for special events held in downtown Fairhope. Public reaction was overwhelmingly negative about the proposed district.
“You’re going to change Fairhope from a family-oriented city to ne where we have free-flowing alcohol on the city streets every time we have a special event,” one resident said. “You’re trying to change the law to accommodate a few bar owners at the expense of thousands of citizens of Fairhope. You’re better people than that.”
Fairhope Police Chief Stephanie Hollinghead told the council if they were to pass the ordinance, the city needed to do a good job of letting residents know the rules and regulations that accompanied the district.
“Let’s make sure the community is educated on what their responsibility as the public is supposed to be,” Hollinghead said. “I know that it will be my responsibility with my department to enforce this law, but we don’t necessarily have the manpower right now to do this.”
Councilman Robert Brown said he understood the public’s concerns but said he felt passing the ordinance was the pragmatic choice for the city.
“If you currently go downtown to any event, there is already alcohol on the streets whether you like it or not,” Brown said. “I believe adults should be treated like adults and I’m in favor of this proposal.”
Councilman Jay Robinson said he could not support the ordinance as written.
“The problem I see here is the poor way the ordinance sets this out,” Robinson said. “I don’t think it solves the problem for the bar owners as written or changed. It only changes things up for 12 days out of the year.”
Councilman Jimmy Conyers agreed.
“I’m kind of on the same page as Jay here,” Conyers said. “I don’t see the widespread calamity that a lot of people say will happen because of this, but the upside is minimal while there is potential for more downside. And the misperception of what is being proposed could be a nightmare to enforce.”
Councilman Kevin Boone reiterated that he had been opposed to the entertainment district from the start.
“I just have never been able to see the benefit for the city of Fairhope for this,” Boone said.
Council President Jack Burrell said he had wrestled with the issue, but ultimately decided to go against the district.
“I don’t know what passing this ordinance is going to do to make things better,” Burrell said. “If you have to think much about whether this is the right thing to do, it probably isn’t the right thing to do.”
Brown motioned to approve the ordinance, but it failed due to lack of a second.