Alcohol in public, sort of. Denver to allow common liquor consumption areas

Alcohol in public, sort of. Denver to allow common liquor consumption areas

Alcohol in public, sort of. Denver to allow common liquor consumption areas

Denver businesses that sell booze can soon create spaces that would allow drinkers to wander outside — open containers and all — so long as they stay within the area’s boundaries.

Under something called common consumption areas, businesses can band together and establish well-defined borders within which customers could roam freely with their alcoholic drinks, according to Ashley Kilroy, director of Denver’s Department of Excise and Licenses.

Don’t think of the Las Vegas Strip or New Orleans, which allow open containers pretty much anywhere, so much as Colorado Springs’ Ivywild School or Greeley’s one-block Ninth Street Plaza, Kilroy said.

“It’s not just about drinking and partying, we want it to be about placemaking and community building.” she said.

Denver’s about a decade late to the game. State legislators legalized the concept in 2011 and Denver City Council agreed to allow it in late 2019, Kilroy said. But as the pandemic spread and businesses closed or cut capacity limits, the idea took a back seat to more immediate priorities.

City officials finalized the common consumption application process Wednesday morning, alongside a few additional rules.

These areas likely won’t pop up all over town, Kilroy noted. Interested businesses must band together to apply and they would only be allowed within entertainment districts, the creation of which requires city council approval. Those districts must be in areas of the city with a strong enough density of businesses to support at least 20,000 square feet of liquor-licensed premises.

That means most viable areas for such a district would be in business-heavy neighborhoods versus residential areas.

One example would be Lower Downtown’s Dairy Block, which Frank Bonanno, who owns and operates the 16 businesses within the Denver Milk Market, hopes to make more friendly to people wandering with their libations.

Already businesses in the block give customers a type of consolidated or unified experience, Bonanno said, but a common consumption area would solidify that even further.

“If they wanted to buy a drink and walk into the Maven Hotel and go up to their room, they could.” Bonanno said. “They could buy a drink at our Moo Bar and walk over to Foraged to have dinner.”

In the nearby River North Arts District, the notion of a common consumption area was new but intriguing to Jonah Munson, owner of The Walnut Room, a pizzeria and music venue,

Enough people already walk around the neighborhood that a common consumption area there could certainly help businesses, Munson said, though he likely won’t pursue such a license.

Ismael De Sousa, owner of the Reunion Bread Co. just a couple blocks away, called the idea “beautiful.” Although the bakery doesn’t hold a liquor license, being included in a common consumption area would benefit all businesses involved, he said.

Now that the rules are finalized, businesses can apply to create a common consumption area in 90 days, according to Molly Duplechian, a policy analyst in Kilroy’s office. The department will ask Denver City Council to halve that time to potentially open the application process by late July.

Businesses holding common consumption licenses would be responsible for following the city’s rules and ensuring customers don’t leave the area’s boundaries, Kilroy said. The department can suspend or revoke licenses of businesses in violation.


Alcohol in public, sort of. Denver to allow common liquor consumption areas