City council votes to give entertainment district another trial run

City council votes to give entertainment district another trial run
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Tuscaloosa City Council voted in favor of making the downtown entertainment district operational for a trial period of 6 months on Tuesday.

The entertainment district allows civilians to carry a designated open container from one local business to another within the perimeters of the district. The entertainment district will be operational Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. - 11 p.m. and Sundays noon - 9 p.m.

The entertainment district had a separate trial run last fall for football season from October to January without large issues.

In January, the City Council discussed making the Entertainment District seven days a week. The matter was tabled in City Council for two weeks to further consider all aspects of the district due to resident and historic district concerns.

At the City Council meeting, several citizens voiced their opinion either for or against the district.

One who was concerned about the district was William Rabel, a UA professor of economics, finance, & legal studies.

“I feel very confident in saying that this permanent downtown entertainment district will create a Bourbon Street image no matter what you say,” Rabel said.

Rabel recruits for the business school and said parents will have a different view of Tuscaloosa, and they will be turned off by the notion of this district.

Other citizens also voiced their concerns about enforcing the boundaries of the district, the character of downtown Tuscaloosa changing,and proper signage at the boundaries of the district.

Chief of Police Steven Anderson said he does not think there will be an issue policing the district.

“We have a precinct to staff downtown, and they’re responsible for the entertainment district and the Strip,” Anderson said. “I believe we have plenty of people that can cover that.”

Erin Owen, marketing director and project manager at Cartography Consulting, LLC, is involved in Young Professionals of Tuscaloosa. Their mission is to retain students and young professionals living in Tuscaloosa.

“There will always be issues, but the good would outweigh the bad as far as to the local businesses,” Owen said.

Owen said the Young Professionals would like to see music festivals and other events that have never been here before come to Tuscaloosa, and this district can possibly lure them in.

Many members of the Young Professionals of Tuscaloosa group came in support of the district, and some said it was a good way for people to explore new places.

Allison Ninmann, a senior majoring in advertising, said she thinks the district sounds fun.

“I think it's a good idea to make more money for local businesses, and it’s another opportunity to hang out with friends,” Ninmann said.

Ninmann said if someone can legally drink then they can make their own rational choices.

Caleb Ledbetter, also a senior majoring in advertising, said he does not drink and will not participate in the district. However, Ledbetter said it is better for the city to control drinking downtown instead of it happening anyways.

“I feel like people are going to do what they're going to do,” Ledbetter said.

After the meeting, Council President Cynthia Almond said her decision was influenced by the way they scaled back the district perimeter and the hours of operation. Almond said the council will acknowledge the public and make changes if necessary in 6 months.

Councilman Eddie Pugh said the council was glad to hear from the public.

“Anything we adopt; we can change,” Pugh said. “We all want Tuscaloosa to be better.”

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