Downtown Entertainment District Becomes Permanent Fixture in Tuscaloosa Featured

Downtown Entertainment District rules allow businesses to serve alcohol to patrons in to-go cups, as long as the patrons stay within the district. Downtown Entertainment District rules allow businesses to serve alcohol to patrons in to-go cups, as long as the patrons stay within the district. Sydney Basden

The Tuscaloosa City Council recently voted to make the city’s Downtown Entertainment District a part of every weekend, instead of it only being in effect on a limited basis. 

According to the city, the entertainment district is in effect on Fridays and Saturdays from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., as well as noon to 9:30 p.m. on Sundays. Its general borders are south of Jack Warner Parkway, east of 28th Avenue, west of 21st Avenue, and north of Sixth Street.

Participating businesses within the district’s boundaries can serve patrons to-go alcoholic beverages, which must be in approved cups with a designated sticker. Customers can only leave an establishment with one cup and must dispose of the beverage before entering another business.

Tuscaloosa City Councilman Matt Calderone initially proposed the entertainment district in 2015. He said it was originally geared toward downtown events and festivals, but he is pleased with its permanent addition to Tuscaloosa.

“I offered up legislation in 2015 after the state passed a law approving entertainment districts for cities that meet certain qualifications because I wanted citizens to be able to walk around and participate in local events,” Calderone said. 

He said the district has added enjoyment to downtown Tuscaloosa, and that the city has seen an increase in events and festivals, most notably the summertime Live at the Plaza concert series. Calderone also said businesses participating in the district are happy with its results. 

Ray Hyde, the general manager for The Booth, said his foot traffic has increased since the district began. The Booth, a local bar within the district’s borders, has been in the district since its introduction. Hyde said the city initially approached the bar about the district, and The Booth agreed to participate. 

“We [The Booth] saw a steady flow of foot traffic during our happy hours this summer,” Hyde said. “Our customers enjoyed being able to walk around and leave the bar with one of our drinks.”

While Hyde said business customers enjoy the entertainment district, members of the Original City Association have safety concerns. The association works to as a watchdog organization that attempts to preserve the “idea of neighborhoods” in the Tuscaloosa historic districts.

Kelly Fits, the organization’s president, said some of the participating retailers in the district are either in or relatively close to the city’s historic neighborhood and homes. She said some families in these neighborhoods have experienced everything from minor vandalism to intoxicated patrons breaking and entering their homes in the middle of the night.

“Intoxicated people get lost and wander into our neighborhoods, creating safety issues for the residents in Tuscaloosa’s historic districts,” Fitts said. “We are trying to protect our borders and provide safety and stability for our families and homeowners.”

Councilman Calderone said that public safety is the city’s top priority and that the city works to educate the public on the entertainment district guidelines.

“We have clearly marked signs designating the boundaries of the entertainment district and its policies,” Calderone said. “Our downtown police precinct also does a good job of monitoring people to enforce and educate patrons about the district’s rules.”

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Druid City Living (DCL) is Tuscaloosa, Alabama's premier community newspaper, covering the great people, places and activities of the area.

 

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