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Cortez council OKs ordinance allowing alcohol on streets

Action would expand outdoor drinking
The Sunflower Theatre and KSJD Radio headquarters, where a new parklet might be built soon.

The Cortez City Council on Tuesday approved the final reading of an ordinance that will allow downtown businesses to apply for licenses to serve alcohol on city sidewalks and streets.

The ordinance amends the city code’s alcohol regulations to allow restaurants and breweries in the central business district to serve alcohol on city-owned walks and streets, provided they first get the city’s permission. It also makes it legal for customers of licensed businesses to drink alcohol in designated outdoor areas.

During a public hearing on Tuesday, Dave, Lana and Tiffani Waters spoke against the ordinance, saying outdoor consumption of alcohol would cause traffic problems and hurt nearby businesses.

Although council members were divided on the issue, the ordinance passed by a 4-3 vote.

Council members first turned their attention to amending the alcohol ordinance after hearing a presentation by Jeff Pope, of KSJD Radio, during their June 27 workshop. Pope plans to turn a few of the parking spaces near the Sunflower Theatre on Market Street into a “parklet” where food and alcohol could be served before and after shows. Although some downtown businesses, such as Stonefish Sushi, are licensed to serve alcohol on its patio, the city code’s current alcohol regulations don’t allow it to be served in the street. Several council members proposed an ordinance to amend the regulations in order to accommodate the parklet.

But although the Sunflower parklet was the driving force behind the change, City Attorney Mike Green said other businesses have asked about serving alcohol on a sidewalk as well.

The new ordinance would open the door for WildEdge Brewing Collective to serve patrons outdoors as well.

A nearby business argued that KSJD’s request posed safety issues.

Tiffani Waters, who owns the Main Street clothing store Love on a Hanger, said she opposed to the parklet’s construction, whether or not alcohol is served there, because it would reduce available parking for her store. Council members said the alcohol ordinance is a separate issue and would not affect whether the parklet is built.

Council members ultimately passed the ordinance by one vote. Sheek, Mayor Pro Tem Ty Keel, Tim Miller and Bob Archibeque voted for the ordinance, while Jill Carlson, Orly Lucero and Shawna McLaughlin voted against it.

Dave and Lana Waters said they believed the ordinance would cause accidents, especially on Main Street, because of intoxicated pedestrians.

“We’re going to spend a whole lot of money to build raised medians to protect people from accidents, and then you throw alcohol back out there, and it kind of defeats the purpose,” Dave Waters said.

Mayor Karen Sheek said she didn’t believe serving alcohol on certain sidewalks or in the parklet would be any more dangerous than allowing people to walk out to their cars after drinking in one of the Main Street restaurants.

“We can’t know everything until we put it in place,” she said. “If we see a marked increase in public drunkenness because now people can actually have a glass of wine or a mug of beer in a parklet as opposed to the patio at Loungin’ Lizard, then, yes, we need to re-examine that, but I would hate for us at this point ... to simply shut it down.”

The ordinance specifies that the expanded liquor licenses will be approved only for businesses directly adjoining a city-owned street, and alcohol can be served only on the part of the street directly in front of each licensed business. The city also may deny or revoke outdoor liquor licenses for safety-related or other reasons.

Businesses would need to get permission from the state of Colorado as well as the city in order to serve alcohol on Main Street, which is a state highway. The Sunflower already has a liquor license that could extend to the sidewalk, Green said, so it would likely be the first business to take advantage of the new ordinance.

Other action

During the Tuesday meeting, the city council also:

Honored Tim Kline, who is resigning from the Cortez Planning and Zoning Commission, and presented him with a plaque commemorating his service.Approved the final reading of an ordinance updating the form and wording of the city’s management program for water and sewer cross-connections and backflow prevention devices.Approved the transfer of the Pepperhead restaurant liquor license to Sobre Mesa, a European fusion restaurant set to move into the Main Street location vacated by Pepperhead.Approved the first reading of an ordinance that would make false reporting to authorities a municipal offense.Awarded a $191,547 bid for the construction of six pickleball courts in Centennial Park to the Denver-based company Renner Sports Surfaces, the lowest bidder.

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