Public Meeting To Discuss Huntsville’s Downtown Entertainment Districts

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) -- The City of Huntsville will hold a public forum Monday, March 4, at 5:30 p.m. in the city council chambers in Huntsville City Hall to discuss the new entertainment districts for downtown Huntsville.

The Huntsville Planning Department will review proposed boundaries and regulations and ask for public comment.

The Alabama Legislature last spring granted municipalities the right to create special "entertainment districts" where bars, restaurants and patron would enjoy looser open container laws.

So far Mobile has been the only major city to have taken advantage of the law.

"If you're within this designated entertainment district," says Huntsville City Director of Zoning and Planning Marie Bostick, "you would be allowed to leave, for example, a restaurant or bar and go out onto the sidewalk -- perhaps the Art Stroll is going on and you could take your glass of wine or your beer and kind of stroll around and see what's going on -- and as long as you're within that designated area you'd be allowed to have that open container."

Is the law a good idea? That is why the city wants the input of the public. Businesses in some cities have been clamoring for neighborhoods to be granted entertainment district status in the hopes that the designation will bring in more people -- and more money. But some argue allowing open containers on the streets may attract drunks, noise and unforeseen problems.

"It's a balancing act," says Bostick. "But we really want to get the input from the citizens to find out what they're thinking about their vision of what the entertainment districts should be and what area should it be in and when it should be open."

The city has spent quite some time researching other municipalities and speaking with several stakeholder groups about options.  Despite the need for pointed planning and discussion, tonight the city will engage its most important stakeholders -- the citizens of Huntsville.

"There is a desire of people to get back downtown and it's not just in Huntsville," says Bostick.  "It's kind of a national trend.  People want to get downtown so they want to have those venues that are unique and exciting so they have some opportunities to do that."

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