City council talks about entertainment district

Published 8:26 pm Thursday, February 27, 2014

Selma officials began the first phase Thursday of creating an entertainment district in downtown Selma.

The Selma City Council held a public meeting to discuss legalities of creating the district and gather residents’ input. Council president Corey Bowie said the first phase of the district’s creation includes discussing public safety concerns and drafting an ordinance. The second phase includes holding a public hearing on the drafted ordinance and a trial run of the entertainment district.

Currently the proposed district would encompass all or part of Water Avenue.

“Personally, I think it would enhance our downtown and the quality of life,” Bowie said. “We will also have to look at the liability of creating and entertainment district. I think by receiving quality information and having quality discussions we can make a quality decision.”

The most significant change to downtown Selma with an entertainment district would be allowing open carry of alcohol within its boundaries, which can be one-half mile by one-half mile. A bill passed in the 2012 Alabama Legislature allows patrons to leave bars with an open container of alcohol, walk around outside and re-enter the same establishment with the same open container. Open carry of alcohol would continue to be illegal in areas outside of the entertainment district.

Alcohol and Beverage Control Board attorney David Peacock said the board could enforce penalties on businesses that allow patrons to enter with an open container from another establishment. Though, private businesses could set rules preventing patrons from entering the bar with an open container, Peacock said.

“The nuts and bolts of how an entertainment district would work is up to the city to decide,” he said.

City councilwoman Angela Benjamin said certain hours should be set for the proposed district to allow the area to remain family friendly.

“There are certain hours of the night that you don’t want your children out anyway,” Benjamin said. “I enjoy [Phoenix Park] with my grand babies. You can have it be family friendly and have an entertainment district.”

Selma resident and business owner Willie Griffin said the city shouldn’t only focus the district on businesses that serve alcohol.

“We also need to look at what percentage are stores and restaurants and what percentage serve alcohol,” Griffin said. “If people are only drinking in the entertainment district, then what are supposed to do after?”

City councilman Cecil Williamson said the next phase of discussion would take place in the public safety committee, focusing on the number of police officers needed, the district’s boundaries and hours for open carry of alcohol to be allowed.