The City of Red Deer is going to create an entertainment district where public alcohol consumption would be allowed after city council unanimously toasted the proposal.
The Downtown Business Association (DBA) sent a letter to city council in March requesting the city become the Alberta municipality to create an entertainment district.
It is believed Red Deer would be the first to take advantage of provincial amendments to the Gaming, Liquor and Cannabis Act to allow drinking in public areas outside licensed premises while enjoying music or other entertainment.
As it stands, people can only drink on the patios of the local restaurants and bars next to the Ross Street Patio.
Council’s vote cleared the way for planning staff to work out the details of an entertainment district bylaw that could come back before council as early as May 24.
Mayor Ken Johnston’s said council’s strong support for the proposal will send a strong signal to the DBA and city residents that “we are moving the needle on our downtown in a positive way.”
Coun. Bruce Buruma also supported the move. “It’s a great opportunity for our city and to be leading the way is important.”
“I always like when Red Deer is leading the way,” said Coun. Lawrence Lee.
Coun. Cindy Jefferies said it did not make sense to her that people could sit and have a beer or glass of wine on one of the outdoor patios while chatting with friends on the other side of the fence who could not legally have a drink.
“I think it would be fantastic to see this kind of life and excitement downtown,” said Jefferies.
A reasonable approach should be taken, she suggested. “I don’t want it to become a Red Mile, for instance,” she said referring to the stretch of bars and restaurants in Calgary’s downtown that can draw huge crowds at times.
Coun. Diane Wyntjes said if the Ross Street Patio entertainment district proves successful the model could be tried elsewhere and connected to events.
Wyntjes said some Alberta municipalities are considering allowing alcohol consumption in parks and asked whether the proposed bylaw would cover that.
Engineering services manager Konrad Dunbar said the bylaw might be used to cover those sorts of initiatives in the future but for now the focus is just on the Ross Street Patio.
If an entertainment district bylaw was created, the city could issue a special event permit and the rest would be regulated under the bylaw.
The bylaw will outline hours of operation, location, fees and limits on containers, such as not allowing glass.