BOISE, Idaho — With eyes open to promoting vibrant and exciting events in Idaho’s Capitol city, the City of Boise is considering a new city code that would allow alcohol open container zones during special events.
Right now, customers typically are not allowed to take alcohol from a restaurant out of a business. The city knows, as the area grows, so will the need and want for major events in already popular locations.
“A lot of the places that we see events are things like the Basque Block, Eighth Street to others, certainly the potential for areas like Bodo as well," Deputy City Clerk for the City of Boise, Jamie Heinzerling said. "But we do see events on Capitol Boulevard and other areas that may lead or may not lead to great places to continue. We have such events and again, maintain the vibrancy of the downtown area."
Heinzerling said under the proposed idea, the city could approve applications to allow for open containers during special events. The ordinance creates a mechanism for alcohol-licensed businesses to be designated as a 'festival block' within the City of Boise.
“So, essentially that allows the flow of alcohol from alcohol-licensed businesses, out into that special event area,” Heinzerling said.
If an area is approved as a festival block, events could opt-in and allow nearby restaurants and bars in the designated event space to allow customers to buy a drink and head back into the festival on the street. To be clear, this would only be for specific events.
“Is not an open container 24/7," Heinzerling said. "It would allow special event organizers to conduct their events within these blocks, and if they so choose, they could allow for open container during their approved special events.”
Festival block areas and events need to be approved by the city, a few hundred friends could not show up to an area and throw an impromptu block party. To be approved, a business with an alcohol license needs to apply and get at least 75% of the businesses and residents on their block to agree with the idea of designating the block as a festival block.
The festival block designation is good for one year at a time and it needs to renewed. The city said the idea is not strictly for large-scale events.
“Smaller events, if they would like, can also opt into the benefits of a special event, which would include operating with open container on a designated festival block,” Heinzerling said.
The city worked with stakeholders in the area to create a plan that considers safety while promoting the success of businesses that find themselves near major events.
“Just wanted to be creative in the ways that we could promote that, as well as the overall vibrancy in downtown and support our businesses, as well as support our events that we see in the area,” Heinzerling said.
With recent changes in Boise’s COVID rules, the city is beginning to see a renewed interest in special events hosted in places like downtown Boise.
“Just took all of the COVID restrictions off of events this past week with the mayor's announcements," Heinzerling said. "So, additional opportunities for events to happen without those restrictions and we're seeing the applications for such special events begin to come in at a higher rate, just since that announcement earlier this week.”
A major player in the discussion is the Basque foundation, a group that promotes major community events on the popular Basque Block. They shared the statement below with KTVB about the concept of the 'Festival Block:'
"The Basque Foundation Inc. which operates the Basque Center and hosts large festivals such as San Inazio and Jaialdi has not formally taken a position of support or opposition on the ordinance. With that said, members of the Basque Foundation Inc. Board of Directors participated in many meetings over the past several years with other stakeholders and City of Boise staff. During those meetings many questions and concerns became apparent and it was well established that the Basque Foundation did not necessarily support this concept and would not utilize this special permit for its events. The last communication with the City regarding this issue was in October where concerns were expressed. The Basque Foundation Board was informed there would be language changes to help clear up confusion. We were caught by surprise to first hear the City was moving forward with the proposed ordinance from the 208 story and not by communicating and providing a final draft of the ordinance for review with stakeholders who had been engaged in the process."
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