Downtown bar owners may have occasion to take a celebratory drink.
The New Port Richey City Council voted 4-1 Tuesday to give final approval to a city ordinance amendment that will permit customers to carry open containers of alcohol bought at a bar onto downtown city streets during special events
Then, those patrons can consume their drinks in designated areas.
Nonprofits and their vendors can already sell beer and wine in secured areas of public spaces during special events.
Bar owners said at a meeting last year that their sales are being affected during these special events.
City council members said last year that they were open to exploring changing the ordinance after bar owners said their sales were being affected by it during special events.
The West Pasco Chamber of Commerce has expressed concerns that the change will hurt its events, which generate money for local nonprofits.
A big event that could be affected by the change would be the Cotee River Bike Fest, which is run by the chamber. The Chasco Fiesta is another festival that could be affected.
Joe Alpine, chamber president, said in an interview that a concern for his organization was the possibiiity of added liability for event planners, as well as other issues.
The chamber spends money to bring thousands downtown and carries the burden of the costs of the events. He told the council when it considered the first draft that Budweiser has told the chamber it will pull its sponsorship of bike fest if the ordinance is changed.
Alpine is concerned about the opinion others have expressed that the chamber is not helping businesses.
“We’re not in competition with them,” he said.
When the city council voted on the first draft of the ordinance change in January, Mayor Bob Consalvo was the lone no vote. On Tuesday, he was again the lone vote against it. He repeated basically the same reason he stated last month: the negative impact on nonprofits.
“I don’t think this is going to help them,” Consalvo said. “It’s going to hurt them.
Resident Denise Houston said she’s with the mayor in objecting to the change. When the first draft came up, she expressed concerns about the change affecting public safety.
On Tuesday, she expressed concern about trash pickup. She also expressed that maybe bars could chip into special events so that some of the nonprofit’s expenses are covered.
Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe said that the ordinance levels the playing field for bars and restaurants. He said that one of the things that has been noticeable by its absence is the “involvement of downtown businesses in sponsoring" some events.
“I would encourage the owners to give some consideration when these things come up,” he said. “We’ve opened it up. Help out where you can.”
Resident Greg Giordano has expressed concern that the city is allowing alcohol on public streets while also investing in red light cameras in the name of public safety.
"It is inconsistent for a city which has invested in improving public safety to allow alcohol to be carried more freely on public streets and property,” he wrote in an email. “It is my opinion that the city council needs to decide what its priorities are and then focus in on achieving them. Increasing public safety and allowing more alcohol on city streets do not necessarily go together.”