A group of downtown Bowling Green business owners is voicing opposition to the city’s plan of establishing an entertainment district allowing the open carry of alcohol in designated outdoor areas at set times.
Names of owners and managers from 16 downtown businesses were attached to a letter sent to the Daily News detailing a number of disagreements with such districts.
The letter claims the open carry of alcohol would lead to “an influx of trash, the degradation of the downtown square and a rise in drunken crime and vandalism.”
The Daily News recently reported Bowling Green city commissioners greenlighted an effort to study a local district at their planning retreat in January.
The districts were made possible by a state law enacted in 2016 allowing municipalities to create entertainment destination centers. Cities such as Owensboro, Newport, Covington and Paducah have established such districts since then as a way to boost tourism and economic development in downtown areas.
Bowling Green officials have met with downtown stakeholders and studied what other cities have done to prepare local guidelines.
However, some of the business owners included in the letter said they haven’t been consulted.
The beginning of the letter, written by Donna’s Bar co-owners Duncan McKenzie and Micah Rigdon, said:
“As members of the downtown community, whom of which are directly affected by the Entertainment District, we are a bit shocked, saddened and frustrated to find that with the little to no conversation with us, the Entertainment District has been approved.
“It comes off as a bit insulting that we were not included in the invite-only meeting, where it seems a small group of businesses were hand picked for their support of the idea. Most signatories of this letter have had no contact with a single member of the city, nor were aware of this motion until its mention in the Daily News article.”
The letter later said: “We have nothing against social events bringing in business to the downtown area, however there is a consensus that allowing alcohol outside in such a large area would result in more cost for businesses as well as the taxpayers.”
Owners and managers from Morris Jewelry, Birth BG, Melodies & Memories, Baked, Little Fox Bakery, The Hearth Room, Cliffs of Moher, Hot Mess Mama Boutique, Tidball’s, Dublin’s Irish Pub, Fountain Square Emporium, The Office, Candle Makers on the Square, Classic Cuts & Shave and Barbara Stewart Interiors also signed off on the letter.
Rigdon told the Daily News the letter was written after he said many businesses were neglected in the city’s conversations with downtown owners.
“As bar owners, we were amazed that we were not invited to this closed-door, invite-only meeting that was had,” Rigdon said. “There are so many issues. So many things just haven’t been getting enough thought yet. We are just not in the position as a city or with our infrastructure to handle something like this. I don’t see how any of the small downtown businesses will actually benefit.
“Once I got to talking with how few of us were initially involved in that conversation, that’s when we wanted to publicly state we were not taken into consideration when this is going to directly affect us,” Rigdon said. “For them to assume we would automatically be OK with it is ignorant.”
City Manager Jeff Meisel said he was “surprised” to hear of the opposition to the new district. He said owners of several downtown restaurants and shops had been consulted on the matter.
“We met with many downtown businesses several weeks ago, and many were on board with it,” Meisel said. “It sounds like we need to call another meeting and let them voice their opinions. I would encourage them to reach back out to us. Maybe we missed some people we didn’t realize. We need to work on that.
“This is something we are not trying to ram down people’s throats,” he said. “It is not any intention of us to leave anyone out. We want positive and negative opinions. It sounds like we need another stakeholder meeting.”
Meisel said the city is still in the planning and research phases of adding an entertainment district, and possible issues from open carry of alcohol being allowed are still being considered.
“We are still studying the rules of an entertainment district under the ... code of Kentucky,” Meisel said. “At this point, we are still trying to figure out the appropriate days or nights this should be out there. We are trying to do our homework and the best we can with it. We have to look at this from what can be enforced.”
However, Alison Taylor, co-owner of Little Fox Bakery, still insists the idea would be negative for Bowling Green.
“The general consensus with a lot of the business owners downtown is that this is not a well thought-out plan,” Taylor said. “There is a large amount of vandalism and litter we have to tend to after a bar night. A couple of businesses here on the square have to deal with people urinating. It’s already kind of out of control to a degree. People are already not drinking responsibly.
“It’s been stressed to us that it is still in the planning stages, but it hasn’t really been relayed to us that there will be anything done to relieve these concerns,” she said. “It just seems kind of thrown together. None of us can really figure out how this would exactly be promoting more business downtown than it does promote drinking.”
J.C. Mosley, co-owner of Melodies and Memories, also voiced opposition to the entertainment district.
“It’s a bad idea all-around,” Mosley said. “We have to come in and clean up something on our side of the street every day. It’s not going to do anything for our business.”
– Follow reporter John Reecer on Twitter @JReecerBGDN or visit bgdailynews.com.