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Larimer Square. Photo courtesy of Visit Denver

Cheers Denver! This New Ordinance Will Let You Drink in Public

Don't worry about chugging the rest of your beer—Denver's new "common consumption" ordinance will allow you to bring your drink outside of some liquor-licensed businesses.

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Local restaurants better stock up on to-go cups because Denver will soon let you to take your drink outside of liquor-licensed businesses. 

The Denver City Council approved a “common consumption” ordinance in an unanimous vote on November 12 that allows two or more businesses apply for a permit to create a designated area where customers can freely drink in public together. 

Each common consumption area must be approved by a registered neighborhood organization, and it must be within an entertainment district, which the city defines as “an area of the city that is no larger than 100 acres and contains at least 20,000 square feet of total liquor-licensed premises.” 

So, for example, if you had a late brunch at Snooze and wanted to take a stroll through Union Station with your drink, you could. Or, if you had a boozy lunch with the girls and wanted to do some window shopping in Larimer Square with that last margarita you couldn’t finish, that’s perfectly fine too. As long as the restaurants and community have agreed to and defined a common area for open consumption (and you’ve paid your server), you’re free to roam or meet up with a pal from another bar. Outside drinks will not be allowed in other restaurants or bars. 

Temporary special event permits will also be available for big gatherings, such as the National Western Stock Show, to define a common consumption area for up to 15 days. 

Councilman Kevin Flynn (District 2), chair of the Business, Arts, Workforce & Aviation Services Committee, says that this lax ordinance could benefit businesses who join forces.

“This just helps expand the possibilities for businesses that band together to try to attract a greater crowd of people knowing that they’ll be able to walk around and go to different establishments,” Flynn says. “And when there’s special events, the local businesses can get revenue from that, rather than an outside vendor.”

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The city has stressed that locations like 16th Street Mall will not turn into the newest Bourbon Street. All hours of operation will still end at 2 a.m.; streets are closed when the areas are active— some will require fencing and signs; and each applicant must go through a lengthy approval process.

The new law is set to be a five-year pilot program with annual reviews from each applicant. Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses is in charge of outlining rules and regulations for the ordinance, and we could see the first licenses awarded in late spring or early summer 2020. 

Based on feedback from several other cities throughout Colorado that have already adopted this law, including Aurora, Fort Collins, and Telluride, Denver has a plan in place to address safety concerns.

“It requires that businesses must have a safety and security plan as well as a parking and transportation system that is submitted with each application,” Flynn says. “This is why I’m very glad to have a five-year pilot program. We can monitor this. And I’m very glad that Councilwoman Deborah Ortega added her requirement for annual reporting, so that we don’t have to wait five years to see how it’s going. We’ll figure out a lot of this during the rule-making process, but security, safety, parking, and transportation are my main concerns.”

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