ALPHARETTA, Ga. — It has been three years since Alpharetta changed its alcohol laws to allow drinking outdoors in downtown. So far, only a few city restaurants have taken advantage of this law.
Other area cities are cautiously experimenting with more lax open container laws in specific locations.
Alpharetta allows pedestrians open containers up to 16 ounces of wine and beer in downtown Alpharetta, and more recently allowed it for the upcoming Avalon district.
“It’s designed to be a pedestrian area, and we’re trying to encourage and promote people to cross pollinate restaurants and window shop,” said James Drinkard, Alpharetta assistant administrator.
“To create the vibe that we’re trying to create downtown, it made sense to allow for this kind of cross population.”
Drinkard, who helped draft the ordinance, said the policy helps local businesses.
“It’s been very successful in attracting restaurants. Unique dining experiences draw people in, and then retail businesses start to pop up,” Drinkard said. “Hop Alley has come online, Salt has come online. We’ve seen South Main Kitchen has been attracted to the downtown district.”
Alpharetta Mayor David Belle Isle said the law helps bring a sense of identity to the city.
“We wanted to make it an atmosphere that was still family supportive but at the same time allow people to come and have fun,” Belle Isle said. “Downtown is where residents will identify with their community and be together.”
All told, there are six restaurants in downtown Alpharetta. Only Hop Alley and Smokejack serve “to-go” drinks. Other restaurants do not allow such serving by company policy, with some citing liability issues.
Brandon Hintz, owner of Hop Alley, said the ordinance is “great for our business.”
“Alpharetta’s one of the few cities in Georgia that does this,” Hintz said. “We have a lot of business, especially Thursday nights with the food trucks. A lot of people come in, grab a beer from us and are able to walk around town.”
However, Hintz said the law was not a deciding factor in coming to downtown Alpharetta, simply an added bonus.
Alpharetta Public Safety Spokesman George Gordon said that as long as owners and patrons comply with the law, he sees few problems with enforcement.
“It’s a well written ordinance. Business owners understand the expectations and requirements,” Gordon said. “We really have not had any issues with public drunkenness, disorderly conduct, DUIs or anything like that. As of right now, things are running very well.”
Following Alpharetta’s changes, other North Fulton cities have relaxed their own policies.
In May, Johns Creek allowed licensed caterers to sell alcohol at Newtown Park’s amphitheater for the inaugural Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra concert June 28.
And in October, the city of Cumming allowed special events alcohol permits for the fairgrounds for the first time. Johns Creek, Milton and Roswell allow alcohol at certain special events.