Laramie City Council voted unanimously Tuesday night in favor of extending downtown’s open container policy from Sept. 7-30.
The resolution was initially adopted in July as a four-week trial run with the goal of bringing more traffic downtown to support local businesses, restaurants and bars amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The policy will still apply Thursday through Saturday from 11 a.m. – 8 p.m.
The extension was proposed due in part to a desire to match up with the use of the Hollyhock Commons area, which is located on the corner of Second and Custer Streets.
“When we originally considered this, there was a lot of discussion, and there was some reluctance to move forward,” councilman Paul Weaver said. “For the most part, this has been an outdoor opportunity that hasn’t been problematic. And as a result, I feel comfortable with the extension.”
In a survey distributed by the Laramie Main Street Alliance, the majority of the 230 or so surveyed individuals said they had spent more time and money downtown since the open container policy went into effect. More than 76% of those polled were in favor of extending the ordinance.
Downtown business owners didn’t show as much overall enthusiasm over the potential extension, though. More than half of the 39 business owners polled reported that their business hadn’t seen a change in foot traffic due to the ordinance, and just under 60% reported no change in sales during the open container hours.
Just 51.3% of business owners were in favor of extending the ordinance, per the survey.
“The intent of the resolution was to increase business downtown,” councilwoman Jessica Stalder said. “I think it’s fine to continue, but the intent of the resolution was to increase sales for our businesses, and I don’t think that we achieved that.”
Local business owner Brett Glass, who was opposed to the ordinance when it was initially adopted, voiced his displeasure once again during Tuesday’s public comment period.
“It only takes two drinks within one hour for someone to become too drunk to drive. … What we observed when we were down there was they were going into the bars, buying multiple drinks, taking them out and then before they got warm, which means well within an hour, they were consuming them and then they were leaving and driving home,” Glass said. “It really doesn’t help to encourage people to drink.”
Councilwoman Erin O’Doherty, who voted against the resolution in July, said her initial fears of out of control messiness downtown did not come to fruition. Tuesday’s resolution ultimately passed 9-0; the vote for the initial four-week trial run was 5-4.
“I was opposed to the resolution when it initially came up because mostly I don’t like having the world circle around alcohol,” she said. “I’ve been down there enough times, seeing people just enjoy downtown. And to have a sense of community … I feel like my hesitation initially was unfounded.”