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Gainesville may allow beer, wine at May event on square
Main Street officials hope Cinqo de Mayo test event will be first of many
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Main Street Gainesville officials are planning a Cinco de Mayo celebration to test how open container events could work on the downtown square.

If successful, the get together could mark the first of a series of First Friday events to draw residents to the downtown area for shopping, dining and entertainment on the first weekend each month.

"We want to test it and get our feet wet to see how it goes," said Angela Thompson, Main Street manager. "Then we can change and update the events as we go."

The open container rule would allow people to purchase beer and wine inside of restaurants between 5-10 p.m. and obtain a wristband to walk around the downtown commercial district. The restaurants would check identification and pour the order into a 16-ounce or smaller clear cup.

Gainesville City Council members will vote on the resolution Tuesday. When Thompson presented the idea at Thursday's work session, council members gave a positive reaction.

"The Main Street board was extremely supportive," Thompson told them. "We'll see how this goes and then move forward. It's very popular in other downtowns."

Thompson has asked Suwanee and Brunswick officials how to pull off successful First Friday events, which would start in June and run through October this year.

"We want people to be entertained and mingle in the businesses and restaurants," she said. "It's important for downtown to be seen as the center of the community and for people to patronize the businesses."

Council members also heard a report from the Alcoholic Beverage Review Committee, which was created in December to suggest changes to the city's alcohol ordinance.

"We went over the ordinance and what events can be permitted for nonprofits and for-profits, and we're in conformance with state law," said city marshal Debbie Jones. "We're stricter with the 50-50 requirement for percentages of alcohol and food sales, but there wasn't anything they wanted to change at all."

Five community members were on the committee that met twice in January.

"We had a lot of comments from local businesses about the ordinance," City Manager Kip Padgett said when the group formed in December. "This was an effort to get businesses and our staff together to look at any changes or conflicts with state law."

During the discussion, a few people introduced the idea of brown-bagging wine at downtown restaurants, but restaurant owners were concerned about the liabilities associated with customers bringing in their own wine.

"I'm surprised no one wanted to change the 50-50 rule, but this is good to hear and keeps us where we want to be," said Mayor Pro Tem Danny Dunagan. "I have heard that people are excited about the First Friday idea, so we're looking forward to that."