Denver to continue looking at common-consumption license

License would allow people to carry alcohol within established areas


Possibly as soon as 2020 it may be legal for Denverites to carry open, alcoholic beverages from one liquor-licensed business to the next within established “entertainment district” boundaries set in the city.

This common-consumption area initiative has been studied by Denver Excise & Licenses, business representatives, the Downtown Denver Partnership, neighborhood groups and the public over the last few years, following a 2011 state statute authorizing local jurisdictions to license common consumption of alcohol.

From 2013 to 2016, various concepts of how this might work in Denver were drafted by the city. None of these have advanced to Denver City Council for a vote, though. Meanwhile, other cities in the state have adopted common-consumption initiatives including Aurora, Central City, Glendale, Greeley and Telluride.

Eric Escudero, director of communications of Denver Excise and Licenses, said in an email that a “full presentation” of a proposed liquor common-consumption pilot program will soon go before the city council’s Business, Arts, Workforce and Aviation Services committee.

“If approved, the implementation of the license would not be effective until at least early 2020,” said Escudero.

The initiative would start as a five-year pilot program with no limit on the number of licenses issued, he said. He added that the Dairy Block alley downtown is a potential area where Denver’s proposed common consumption rules could work.

Stanley Marketplace in Aurora is an example of a site licensed for common consumption. About 12 on-site businesses share a common consumption-area license. This allows patrons to walk with their open containers of alcohol from one business to the next. The area is known as the Westerly Creek Entertainment District and runs along the Stanley property boundary at 2501 Dallas St.

“Common consumption has been a great success at Stanley,” said Bryant Palmer, chief storyteller at Stanley. “Our visitors love being able to carry adult beverages throughout the marketplace, particularly while they shop at our collection of local boutiques.”

The city of Denver has been working toward creating a common-consumption license of its own for a while. In 2017, Denver Mayor Michael Hancock requested that Denver Excise & Licenses renew its work to create a new license category for alcohol common-consumption areas. In 2018, the concept progressed among meetings with various city departments and through feedback from the public during hearings.

At present, the city continues to work on a draft of the ordinance. As proposed by the city, these common-consumption areas may form as “kiosks or separate rooms in a larger, enclosed space, some may be located in an alleyway shut off to traffic, and some may connect to several freestanding businesses.”

Christine O’Connor, a resident of Denver since 1981,an attorney and one of two co-chairs of Denver Inter-Neighborhood Cooperation (INC), questions the origins of the push by the city for common consumption and wonders if the general public is even aware of the initiative.

“This new license category was not based on requests from neighbors,but based on input from businesses and the liquor industry. I’m concerned people do not know this is happening,” she said. “I am also concerned that the new license category may have unintended consequences for neighborhoods located in proximity to these entertainment districts.”

O’Connor added that INC had several opportunities for input over the past three months and hopes the city has incorporated its suggestions in the new draft. These include limiting the pilot program to two years instead of five, limiting common consumption area ordinances to enclosed spaces, and that evidence of support from those who live in the neighborhood being considered must be submitted during the licensure process. “This is absolutely key,” said O’Connor.

Unlike special events licenses, which are already allowed in Denver, the common-consumption license allows existing liquor-licensed establishments to sell alcohol that may be consumed outside of the establishment’s licensed premises. Special event licenses are also temporary.


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