Denver is looking at allowing drinking in the streets — with rules, of course

For one thing, it’d be limited to small areas.

The Dairy Block's pedestrian alleyway, April 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

The Dairy Block's pedestrian alleyway, April 23, 2018. (Kevin J. Beaty/Denverite)

staff photos

Don’t call it Bourbon Street.

That’s the message Denver’s business licensing department hopes people take away from its proposal to allow drinking publicly in well-defined areas around the city.

The Department of Excise and Licenses calls the idea a “common consumption area.” In a nutshell, it’s a confined area where you can drink while walking outside without getting in trouble.

Here’s how it would work: A business applies for the special liquor license, likely along with adjacent storefronts, to create a strip where people can drink while walking, shopping or doing anything else available in bounds. The drinks can only come from restaurants and bars within that area — not from outside vendors.

For example, businesses at the Dairy Block could apply to legalize walking with booze in that fancy alley. Same with businesses on the 16th Street Mall. The Santa Fe Drive businesses could ask permission for Art Walk, too.

The laxer rules are something “people have asked for,” Erica Rogers, a policy analyst from Excise and Licenses, told the Denver City Council on Wednesday during a committee meeting.

Officials stressed that the permit would not spawn something like New Orleans’ French Quarter because booze zones would be confined to smaller areas and require a lengthy approval process. An approved permit would require evidence of neighborhood support, a public hearing and detailed plans for security and sanitation, among other things. Some alcohol areas would call for fencing and signs.

It’s early in the process, but the licensing department has conversed with neighborhood organizations about their concerns, Rogers said. Those worries include people drinking in the street at all hours, anywhere they want. The department told residents and council members that those things aren’t in the cards.

“It can be scary and create a lot of anxiety in people, so we wanted to address those questions upfront,” Rogers said.

Denver is not blazing a new trail here. Cities and towns including Aurora, Glendale and Greeley have these types of permits.

The council committee did not vote on any measure Wednesday, but the licensing department hopes to put the proposal before policymakers officially in the next month.

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