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City council OKs outdoor alcohol waiver for 1st Fridays
Brown bags are still restricted
A spontaneous line dance breaks out in downtown Gainesville next to the Old Joe statue May 5 during the Cinco De May celebration when people were allowed to consume alcohol outside on the downtown square.

Gainesville City Council members are welcoming First Friday events to the downtown square.

The council voted Tuesday to allow the sale of alcohol for outdoor consumption in the commercial district. The move starts a new open container rule that allows people to purchase beer and wine on the square one day each month.

The vote was 3-1, with council member George Wangemann opposed and Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan absent from the meeting.

"We're feeling good about the events, and we think it will be a positive thing for downtown," said Mayor Ruth Bruner. "I'm looking forward to enjoying the outside, walking around and doing some shopping. It's about celebrating the warm weather, summer and the community."

The events will fall on June 3, July 1, Aug. 5 and Sept. 2.

Under the open container rule, people can buy beer and wine inside of restaurants and wear a wristband to walk around the downtown commercial district.

The restaurants must check identification and pour the order into a 16-ounce or smaller clear cup.

Main Street Gainesville officials tested the change during the city's Cinco de Mayo celebration. The Gainesville Police Department didn't receive any complaints or violations in relation to the event.

"It went very well, and I know people are looking forward to coming downtown more," said Police Chief Brian Kelly. "We also had no issues with people walking off the square with beverages. We hope everyone enjoys themselves but remain safe."

Under the changes, participants cannot drink an alcoholic beverage from a can, bottle or glass, and no alcoholic beverages can be purchased outside of the designated area and brought onto the square.

Restrictions under Gainesville's alcoholic beverage ordinance that restrict bring your own bottle and brown bagging still apply.

In addition, the vendors who issue wristbands and serve alcohol cannot "dispense to any person more than one alcoholic beverage at a time for removal from premises," according to the waiver.

Council members are looking forward to the new event series to bring nightlife to downtown.

"Everyone was hanging out, and we started jumping and dancing," council member Myrtle Figueras said at Thursday's work session. "Younger people were walking by, and it appeared they were waiting to come hang out at night. I think it's great."

In other business, the council approved the referendum question for Sunday alcohol sales. The Nov. 8 ballot will feature the question.

According to Senate Bill 10, the question will read, "Shall the governing authority of Gainesville, Georgia, be authorized to permit and regulate package sales by retailers of malt beverages, wine and distilled spirits on Sundays between the hours of 12:30 p.m. and 11:30 p.m."