Denver Wants to Test Out Public Drinking Zones in 2020
Early next year, adults in Colorado’s capital can openly drink with friends in established “entertainment districts,” which are basically public common areas shared by nearby bars and nightclubs.
Published on November 14, 2019

As the Mile High City prepares to roll out its first licensed pot bars that can actually sell weed, the city is getting ready to launch a pilot program where adults can get drunk in public, too.

Technically, Denverites can already drink in some public areas, but they are usually restricted to a bar or club’s property. For example, you can currently enjoy a cocktail on a restaurant’s patio, but you cannot legally take that cocktail across the street and sip it in front of another restaurant. Under the new program approved by the City of Denver on Tuesday, partiers can bring their drinks to designated “entertainment districts,” shared common areas that border or reside near partnered bars, restaurants, and nightclubs.

Of course, Denver officials are sensitive to the city’s diversity, and they’ll only establish entertainment districts if the zones are approved by neighborhood associations and other local officials. "It is not Las Vegas; it is not Bourbon Street," said Eric Escudero, a representative of the city’s Excise and Licenses department, to Westword. "People who don’t want this in their neighborhood need to know that it’s not coming to their neighborhood unless they want it.”

Although the program’s regulators haven’t yet determined which areas will become entertainment districts, the city is considering some night-life hotspots such as the Santa Fe Art District, Larimer Square, and Lodo’s Dairy Block.

Gallery — The Famous & 420-Friendly:

The pilot program will last five years, when the city can either renew it or let it expire. Entertainment districts will be zoned at a minimum of 20,000 square feet and a maximum of 20 acres. All districts must be free of passing vehicle traffic, and partnered businesses must present detailed security and safety plans to the city. 

As for boozy patrons, adults may only purchase alcohol in specially reserved 16 oz. cups that bear the vendor’s name on them. Patrons may take their alcohol and consume it anywhere within the entertainment district’s common public zones, but they cannot take drinks from one venue to another.

No date is set for when the pilot program officially begins, but city officials anticipate it will start sometime in the Spring of 2020. Other cities in Colorado, such as Blackhawk, Edgewater, and Greeley have already implemented similar entertainment district programs. 

Ironically, Denver officials haven’t granted this same kind of leeway to cannabis consumption. Although the state approved of a social consumption program for marijuana earlier this year, tokers will likely only be allowed to blaze at venues where their smoking is concealed from outside passersby. So, as per usual, the powers-that-be have no problem with public drinking — which often brings rowdy and unruly crowds — but quietly continue to shame chill and relatively peaceful cannabis consumers. 

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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