Council approves new entertainment district

Published 10:37 pm Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Selma residents may be able to openly carry liquor on Water Avenue this month after the Selma City Council approved a downtown entertainment district.

The vote required the council to suspend its rules, as the ordinance hadn’t been placed on first reading. Tuesday’s vote was split, with six for, two against and one abstention.

The district’s boundaries start at ArtsRevive, continue down Water Avenue, end at the Old Depot Museum and contain a proposed amphitheater in Riverfront Park. The district becomes official following publication of a legal ad in the Times-Journal. The entertainment district only allows open carry of alcohol if drinks are purchased at a licensed bar or restaurant in the proposed boundaries, according to the ordinance.

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Ward 4 Councilwoman Angela Benjamin, who initially asked for a suspension of the rules, said she thought it was important for the city to have a soft opening during the third annual Jazz on the Grazz event June 20.

“We know that, at some point, we are going to have a big opening,” Benjamin said. “We need to see what is working about it and what is not working. We need to tweak it before we have the grand extension.”

Council President Corey Bowie, who abstained, said he thought the vote was premature.

“I’m in support of the entertainment district, but there is still work to be done,” he said after the meeting. “I was hoping to have more of a comprehensive plan before any kind of approval to prevent the city from having any kind of liability if something bad were to happen.”

The council considered the district for several months before Tuesday’s vote. Bowie was in the midst of developing rules and sorting through logistical issues with a committee of local businesses owners.

The committee proposed nearly 20 rules, including no alcohol in parking lots and a uniform amount of liquor in all drinks. None of the proposed rules were included in the approved ordinance. Specific times for the open carry of liquor were also not included in the ordinance.

Council members Bennie Ruth Crenshaw and Michael Johnson voiced other concerns during the meeting.

“I’m on board, but we need to make sure who is going to be responsible for any trash downtown,” Johnson said during the meeting.

Both Johnson and Crenshaw were the lone no votes.

City attorney Jimmy Nunn said the council could amend the entertainment district at a later date. The approved ordinance says the entertainment district expires in May 2015.

The Alabama Legislature approved a bill during the 2013 legislative session that allows Selma and any other class-five municipalities to establish two entertainment districts within its city limits.