Denver City Council Approves Plan for Common Liquor Consumption Areas

The Dairy Block could be getting even boozier in the future.
The Dairy Block could be getting even boozier in the future. Mark Antonation
Denver will soon be even more of a playground for drinkers. On Tuesday, November 12, Denver City Council unanimously approved a plan that will allow for common liquor consumption areas starting in the spring of 2020.

But the Department of Excise and Licenses, which has been pushing the initiative, wants drinkers to know that Denver isn't going to become a hedonistic haven on the level of some other places famous for their drinking culture. "It is not Las Vegas; it is not Bourbon Street," Eric Escudero, a spokesperson for Excise and Licenses, said to Westword previously.

During the city’s five-year pilot program, restaurants and bars will be able to unite and gain formal recognition from the city as “promotional associations.” Venues will be able to apply for common consumption area licenses, which will last a year and can be renewed annually. Bars will have to propose an entertainment district, in which the proposed consumption area would be located. In a common consumption area, a drinker who buys a beer or cocktail at one venue could carry it into the common consumption area and gather with friends who bought drinks at another bar. However, patrons would not be able to bring a drink bought in one bar into a different venue. Larimer Square, the Dairy Block in LoDo, the Art District on Santa Fe, and the Great Hall at Denver International Airport are some possible locations for common consumption areas.

The city’s rules stipulate that common consumption areas must be closed to motor traffic, have a safety and security plan approved by the city, and offer beverages in cups with a vendor’s name on them. Aside from being clearly labeled, the cups would also have to be disposable and hold no more than 16 ounces of liquid.

Entertainment districts will be capped at 100 acres but would need to contain no less than 20,000 square feet of liquor-licensed establishments.

Common consumption area license applications would cost $250 for the initial proposal and then $250 for each renewal. Any time the city receives a common consumption area application, it will hold a public hearing, during which members of the public and stakeholders from nearby schools and neighborhood organizations can share their perspectives.

"People who don’t want this in their neighborhood need to know that it’s not coming to their neighborhood unless they want it," Escudero said.

Additionally, Excise and Licenses will have to report to city council annually so that councilmembers have a chance to review the pilot program.

Event hosts will also be able to apply for common consumption licenses that last up to fifteen days. At licensed events, people will be able to commune in common consumption areas but buy drinks from existing establishments rather than having to buy drinks brought in by outside vendors, which is currently mandated.

Denver is getting into common consumption area regulation later than many other municipalities. In 2011, the Colorado Legislature passed a bill that authorized cities and towns to have common consumption areas. Since then, cities like Greeley, Black Hawk, Edgewater and Salida, among others, have enacted common consumption area regulations.
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Conor McCormick-Cavanagh is a staff writer at Westword, where he covers a range of beats, including local politics, immigration and homelessness. He previously worked as a journalist in Tunisia and loves to talk New York sports.