Denver will soon allow drinking in public outside certain bars and restaurants

The Council passed a “common consumption” law that lets people drink in parts of the public right of way with a city permit and permission from the neighborhood.

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

Everyone knows Denver doesn’t have enough places to drink and a new law might chip away at the reputation.

Everyone probably also knows the above sentence was an attempted joke — except for the new law part. Businesses can now get permits that let people drink in public, adjacent to their storefronts.

The Denver City Council unanimously okayed the “common consumption” ordinance Tuesday night.

Here’s how it works: A string of businesses (at least two) with liquor licenses will apply for a permit that lets drinkers roam freely in defined areas.

For example, the businesses along that fancy alley at Dairy Block in LoDo could essentially create an open-air bar where people can get a to-go drink and walk in and out of establishments — shops but not other bars — within the district’s boundaries.

The rules could be a boon for businesses without rooftop patios who want to offer an outdoor experience, said Eric Escudero, a spokesman for Denver’s business licensing department. Generally, sidewalks will be off-limits without a permit from Denver Public Works, but alleys and other areas like parking lots are fair game if they’re closed to vehicle traffic.

Available permits will allow drinking for 15 days or for one year.

The Hancock administration really doesn’t want people thinking this setup is anything like the deal New Orleans. Escudero said the constrained boundaries and the public process make 16th Street nothing like Bourbon Street.

“If a community does not want this, guess what, it won’t go forward,” Escudero said.

Businesses have to win approval from local neighborhood groups and the City Council before getting a license to booze, according to the bill’s language.

Denver could see its first licenses awarded as early as spring 2020.

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