No problems as Arts & Entertainment District officially opens

Mayor Jim Staff snipped the ribbon Saturday, June 1, to officially open the city’s new Arts & Entertainment District. Shown from left, Sydney McGhee, Shinora Redmond, Sara Milliken, Sheilo Faircloth, Mayor Staff, Sarah Smith, Laurey Hood, Becca Smith, Eunice Johnson, Shawn Lassiter, Jerry Gehman.

News Staff Writer

Main Street Atmore Director Shinora Redmond and Mayor Jim Staff were both optimistic in their optimism — although cautiously so — during the Saturday, June 1, ribbon cutting and grand opening of the city’s new Arts & Entertainment District.
The new district includes portions of North Main, Ridgeley, Carney and Church streets, as well as a few smaller areas. According to city records, there are four establishments within the district that hold licenses to sell alcoholic beverages by the drink: The Publican, The Coffee House, Gather and Grizzly Pizza & Wings.
The new ordinance allows patrons of those establishments to take their drinks outside the place where they were bought. It also allows them to consume the beverages in a special 16-ounce “to-go cup” as they walk around inside the district’s boundaries, but only from 4 p.m. until midnight.
Redmond, whose organization is dedicated to re-energizing older and historic downtowns and neighborhood commercial districts nationwide, led the push to establish such a district and was in charge of the district’s grand opening activities.
She expressed hope and confidence the new district would serve the purpose for which it is designed.
“Over the next few months, we hope to see an economic impact from this district,” she said as her intern, Laurey Hood, hung a banner on the stage of the Boxcar Willie park. “We feel like it will attract visitors and businesses. We studied the ordinances in several cities, so we didn’t have to reinvent the wheel.”
She talked briefly about concerns that the loose restrictions on alcoholic beverages might have a negative effect, pointing out that the average patron of the district’s businesses would not be prone to public intoxication.
“This is a collaboration between the district’s businesses,” she said. “It’s not about people getting drunk, it’s about people being sociable.”
Staff said the city would take a “zero tolerance” stance when it comes to violations of the new ordinance.
“The way it’s set up, she did a fantastic job,” the mayor said of Redmond. “It’s going to be a good thing if everybody follows the rules and regulations. We’re going to do our best to keep (violations) down. The police will be watching.”
Estimates are that “about 200” people took advantage of the new ordinance to sip their favorite potables while walking around on city sidewalks.
Signs were placed at various locations throughout the district to let people know where the boundaries are, and maps of the district were available at the four previously mentioned drinking establishments.
The grand opening apparently went well, as Atmore PD Sgt. Darrell McMann reported that city police made no arrests in the district between 4 p.m. and midnight, the period during which alcoholic beverages could be legally taken outside the place they were purchased.

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