Representative Jerry Frangas has moved to protect one of Denver’s most liquid assets: First Friday, the art events that every month draw thousands of people to gallery-heavy districts around Denver – including Tennyson Street, where Frangas first encountered the event. There are also First Friday celebrations in Rino (River North), on Broadway and in Lodo, but the real champ is on Santa Fe, which regularly attracts thousand revelers on the first Friday of the month, some of whom even buy art.
In order to keep within state liquor codes, the Santa Fe Arts District prohibits its members from serving alcohol at these openings, but still, plenty of the galleries – as well as galleries across town – have been serving free wine and beer at First Friday. And all of them have been breaking the law – because in this state, it’s illegal to serve liquor to the public, even at a free party, if the venue doesn't have a liquor license.
For years, the alcohol-enchanced openings stayed under the radar, but as crowds increased, so did official scrutiny of the events. And legally, there weren't a lot of options other than going dry, because getting a liquor license is a pretty laborious -- and expensive -- process for a small gallery that only wants to tap a keg once a month. Frangas’s bill, however, would create a loophole that would grant a short-term liquor permit to art galleries for no more than four hours a day, no more than fifteen days a year.
On Thursday, January 24, Frangas’s proposal passed out of the House Business Affairs and Labor Committee on a unanimous vote, with reps recognizing that letting arts galleries offer free liquor is just good business – not monkey business. “The offer of wine in a paper cup can help entice people to visit the galleries that they’ve never been into before,” says. Frangas. “These events bring the community together in appreciation of the arts. And importantly, this is a pro-business bill that takes only a minor adjustment in the law.”
We'll drink to that. -- Patricia Calhoun
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.