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Could Charlottesville’s Downtown Mall become the city’s first open container area?

Updated: Jun. 21, 2021 at 10:24 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - As Charlottesville looks to get its businesses back on track, a new proposal has shown up: allowing a modified “open carry” for adult beverages on the Downtown Mall.

DORAs, or the Designated Outdoor Refreshments Areas, will be legal on July 1, and up to localities to create them. Now, Charlottesville is exploring what it may look like.

“The basic concept is that adults would be able to purchase a 16-ounce cup from a business that sells alcohol and take it into the public area, so in this case, it would be the Downtown Mall,” said Charlottesville Business Development Manager Jason Ness.

That concept was presented to city council on Monday as one of over a dozen ways to revitalize businesses after a challenging year of shutdowns and modifications.

“The goal of these areas is to increase economic vibrancy and entertainment,” Ness said.

But city councilors, including Mayor Nikuyah Walker, had some concerns and really want to iron out the details before making any commitments.

“Based on the citizens who have been challenged by the rules this far, not being able to drink on the mall, then we know they are probably not likely to be the ones with a DORA cup,” Walker said. “So that would be the one thing I hope we resolve where just because they don’t have that cup that they are unfairly treated in some way.”

Right now, you can only drink on the Downtown Mall if you’re at a restaurant that serves.

“During specific DORA times it would only be allowed in specific cups, so I think that’s the delineation between the two things,” Ness said. “The next question is how do you handle it when it’s not in appropriate cups - that’s the next thing we need to work out.”

Sena Magill, the city’s vice-mayor, asked the economic development team to make sure the potential policy would work elsewhere in the city.

“If we’re developing something like this I don’t want it to be mall-focused, I want to make sure that if we’re developing it, it can be for all areas of Charlottesville,” Magill said.

Tons of details still need to be discussed, but here’s one detail Ness says falls under guidance from the state law: you can’t go from restaurant to restaurant with your cup, but you could go into a retail store with your drink if they allow it.

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