City Council Approves Open Container Zones, Lodging Taxes

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Downtown living and nightlife took center stage at Thursday night's Huntsville City Council meeting.

Walking the streets of downtown Huntsville with a cold beer in hand will soon be reality, as the city council leaders approved two separate entertainment districts at the meeting.  Both districts will allow open containers of alcohol on downtown streets, but on a limited basis. The new ordinance allows patrons to walk with their beer or wine in hand between the hours of 5 p.m. and 10 p.m. Thursday and Friday. Saturday is out for now, but council members said they would consider adding it and extra hours at a review session this fall.

This is the mapped area of the Entertainment Districts for Huntsville

This is the mapped area of the Entertainment Districts for Huntsville

The open container zones are now allowed thanks to a new law recently passed by the Alabama legislature, but they do not come without controversy. Some residents say they don't want the container zones at all, citing fears over increased crime. One zone will encompass a large swath of downtown that includes the courthouse area and Big Spring Park. The second, smaller zone covers an area of restaurants and bars near the intersection of Cleveland and Meridian.

An ongoing noise ordinance controversy that's pitted downtown bar owners and patrons against nearby homeowners and tenants also got plenty of attention Thursday. Mayor Tommy Battle said city leaders and police will continue to work on a compromise between the two groups, but for now the noise ordinance will stay at its current 62 decibel legal limit. Several bands that perform downtown say it's virtually impossible to perform without exceeding that level.

The council also approved a much discussed tax hike on hotels.  Supporters of the lodging tax increase have argued it will help raise much needed funds for bigger and better conventions. The council also passed a measure that increases longevity pay for city employees.

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