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After a successful weekend, Charlottesville leaders speak on open containers going forward

Published: Apr. 27, 2022 at 4:01 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) - City leaders say they’ve heard only good things after Charlottesville experimented with allowing the open carrying of alcohol around parts of the Downtown Mall last weekend.

“I mean, the feedback from people was, ‘Oh, why don’t they do this every week? Shouldn’t Fridays After Five always be like this?,” Michael Rodi, the owner of Rapture, said. “I wrote a letter to the legislature before they passed the statute that allows for municipalities to designate an area as an open container area. Our city hasn’t done that yet. Hopefully, they strongly consider it.”

Mayor Lloyd Snook says he has only heard positive feedback over people being able to walk around with a beer or cocktail during the Tom Tom Festival, April 22 and 23.

“The feedback I heard was positive, that business was good, but again, whether the business was good because it was a beautiful day and there were things going on downtown and hey, we’re back baby, you know? Maybe that’s all it was, who knows,” the mayor said.

A change in the open container law in downtown Charlottesville is a possibility. Despite the support, there are some concerns.

“If people are drinking on streets, on sidewalks, what’s in the vicinity around these public areas? Is it parks, is it schools, and how do we need to adjust what those boundaries might look like? So OK, restaurants are benefiting, but are other businesses suffering?” AC Rieman, legal analyst for NBC29, said. “Ensuring that the community also has waste receptacles and places that patrons can dispose appropriately of their trash so that it’s not creating a nuisance, or potential slip and fall hazard.”

Mayor Snook says these are things that would need to be brought before City Council.

“I’m more concerned with knowing really how it’s going to work,” he said.

Vice Mayor Juandiego Wade agrees: “Right now, we really don’t have an official proposal in front of us. So I think that now we would have to get that proposal and determine if we wanted to proceed with it,” he said.

“Downtown Charlottesville is a really, really special place and it’s pretty unique, and we need to find ways to keep it on people’s radar,” Rodi said. “Having it have a special designation and giving it a sort of kind of ongoing festival feel, I think would do a lot to keep it relevant in an age where people want to order everything on an app or have things delivered to their front door.”

Sergeant Lee Gibson with the Charlottesville Police Department says officers weren’t called to respond to anything relating to this weekend’s event.

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