Georgetown considers allowing outdoor drinking

Downtown Georgetown restaurants may soon be able to serve alcoholic beverages to patrons sitting outside.

The Georgetown City Council on Thursday postponed first reading of an ordinance that would amend the city's public drinking ordinance and make it more flexible for Front Street businesses.

The current ordinance prohibits alcoholic beverages on public property, the council discussed a change that would allow alcoholic beverages to be served "cafe-style" on public sidewalks.

This is not the first time the change has been proposed.

In 2002, an ordinance was proposed that would have allowed outdoor diners to drink alcohol. The council rejected that ordinance with a 5-2 vote.

On Tuesday the council seemed receptive to the idea of adjusting the ordinance, but delayed the initial vote to allow city staff to redraft it based on the council's suggestions.

The draft ordinance would have allowed drinking on public property within the core commercial district, including the street and sidewalks.

But Councilman Rudolph Bradley said he did not want people to be allowed to walk up and down the streets "parading drinking. It is incumbent upon us that it is done in order and decency," he said.

Bradley said he did not have a problem allowing people to sit at a table in front of a restaurant "and drink sociably and maintain the law." But he said allowing people to travel from one establishment to another with a drink in their hand "is a gateway to trouble." Council members Jeanette Ard and Clarence Smalls agreed with Bradley.

Ard said the ordinance should be "a little stronger, so people aren't just walking around." But Mayor Jack Scoville said he didn't think having people be able to walk, for example, down the boardwalk with a drink in their hand would be a problem.

He pointed out that on the Murrells Inlet harborwalk, people are allowed to drink.

"They don't have a problem," he said.

Scoville said he thought allowing things such as pub crawls in downtown Georgetown would help tourism.

"We're talking about adults who are acting like adults," he said. "Downtown has changed a lot. We need to upgrade the law to reflect it."

But Paul Gardner, the Georgetown police chief, said he thought allowing people to drink while walking down the street would require an increased police presence downtown.

"I think the cafe would work," he said. "It will satisfy the business owners and the public's ability to entertain." City staff will present a revised ordinance at the next Georgetown City Council meeting on Sept. 16.

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