Beginning this Friday, a large sector of downtown Owensboro will function as an entertainment destination center (EDC), allowing patrons to openly carry alcohol to and from select establishments that reside within “The District,” as this area has been named.
Assistant City Manager Lelan Hancock made the official announcement Tuesday at a city commission meeting, unveiling one of several neon green signs that will be placed at EDC locations in downtown Owensboro beginning Wednesday morning.
The signs, which read “The District: Dine, Drink, Discover,” will serve as the marketing concept Hancock and Director of Public Events Tim Ross came up with to encapsulate Owensboro’s newest open-container policy, which will only be in effect for specific events.
The first organization to partner with The District is Friday After 5, and the EDC license will be in effect for the first time on May 17.
So far, nine different establishments have turned in their paperwork and the $300 fee required to participate as part of The District for each night of this season’s Friday After 5 event. A total of 14 establishments can serve as EDC sites within The District, and Hancock expects several more to turn in their paperwork and pay their fees before the week is up.
“What this district will do is, it adds some attractiveness to our downtown,” Hancock said. “It allows patrons the freedom to get out and discover what downtown Owensboro has to offer.”
Hancock explained that residents within The District who want to leave an establishment while carrying alcohol will be given green plastic cups from establishments operating under the EDC license. Contents from an unfinished drink can be transferred into the cup, or customers can even buy a new drink and carry it with them in the plastic cup. Each cup has a list of The District guidelines printed on the side, Hancock said.
“These cups serve three-fold,” he said. “It allows local law enforcement to know who is carrying a drink in the downtown area. It allows businesses to know who’s participating and who’s not. And the third, and most important one, is that you have the rules in your hand. It tells you where you can go, what you can do with this cup, and it gives you a website as well to give you the map.”
Patrons can receive plastic cups between 5 p.m. and midnight during Friday After 5. After midnight, establishments within The District will no longer serve drinks with plastic cups.
All of the businesses involved voted on a stipulation that requires residents to either finish or toss their cup before entering a new establishment within The District.
“There’s tips, rules and regulations on how they serve alcohol and, of course, they have to stay compliant with those,” Hancock said. “They’ve got that evaluation as their training depicts as to how many drinks you’ve had, and so they didn’t want that confusion about ‘Is that our drink?’”
The plastic cups will be used as to-go cups, and customers will only receive the plastic cups when leaving an establishment; otherwise, restaurants will still serve drinks using glassware. This will mark the first time in Owensboro that customers are able to take their alcoholic drinks with them to-go.
In talking to some of the business owners, Hancock said many of them felt positive about The District because it would allow a higher turnover rate for tables, thus allowing businesses to sell more product to more people in a more efficient manner.
“If I sit down and order food, and I’m sitting there, and I finish my dinner and I’m having a drink — this will be speed that [turnover] process up because I can get up and leave instead of sit there, and I can stroll down to the next business or location with the bands, see what’s going on,” Hancock said. “The more people that sit at those tables, the more profit for that business. They’re very happy to be involved.”
Establishments that have partnered with The District thus far include Spectra (The Owensboro Convention Center), Burger Theory, VFW, Lure Seafood and Grille, Mellow Mushroom, Fetta Specialty Pizza & Spirits, Holiday Inn & Suites, Hampton Inn & Suites, The Miller House, the RiverPark Center and the Bluegrass Music Hall of Fame & Museum.
Residents may not take alcohol inside retail stores, Smothers Park, church properties or inside other establishments that don’t operate under the EDC guidelines.