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Common consumption stumbles along (maybe)

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By Will Grandbois
Sopris Sun Staff

There’s a good chance folks will be allowed to wander Main Street with an open alcoholic beverage on First Fridays this summer.

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With support from the Events Task Force and Chamber of Commerce, the possibility went before the Board of Trustees for the second time on Jan. 9 for a more in-depth logistical discussion and was received with cautious interest.

As proposed, common consumption would be in effect from 5 to 9 p.m. for the June, July and August events and give of-age attendees the chance to purchase a special cup that, filled by any participating bar, would be permitted anywhere within the standard street closure not providing liquor of its own. Organizers hope it will increase circulation between businesses and events and provide a source of income to improve First Fridays.

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There are still some kinks to work out. While organizers had planned to sell metal cups, the most recent state common consumption requirements call for something disposable, though why or what that means isn’t clearly defined.

Additionally, Third Street typically remains open through the closure — and Police Chief Gene Schilling wasn’t open to changing that. As such, cups will have to be empty to cross that intersection. You also won’t be able to bring a drink from one bar into another — or a gallery serving alcohol.

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“You couldn’t go into a building that’s a licensed liquor establishment with liquor,” Schilling explained.

Given that they won’t be eligible to serve for common consumption anyway, Chamber Director Andrea Stewart expects most galleries to simply stick with snacks.

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“It’s not in their best benefit,” Town Clerk Cathy Derby agreed.

On the trustee end, Frosty Merriott raised concerns of underage drinking, while Heather Henry worried about overconsumption.

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The same procedure is in place for both eventualities, with serial numbers on the cups, stickers, wristbands and a fresh ID check at each venue.

Trustee Ben Bohmfalk saw that as at least as good as the current setup.

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“I think a lot of this isn’t going to be as dramatically different from normal First Fridays as it might seem,” he said.

There’s also the matter of the TIPS training required for all participating employees as part of the ordinance — which Carbondale doesn’t require otherwise. Still, there were real concerns about potential liability if something went wrong.

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“The Town can get sued if somebody gets hurt out there drunk,” said Town Attorney Mark Hamilton. “Don’t think that can’t happen… There is no zero risk scenario.”

Despite plans for over a dozen private security guards, Schilling expressed concerns that there might not be enough officers to respond to other calls in addition to something like a large fight.

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“I really hope it works, but I’m really concerned,” he said.

For Trustee Marty Silverstein, any final approval would be very much a trial run.

“Anything that brings more people to Town, that brings more sales tax to town is a good thing,” he said. “Unfortunately, any time people use alcohol or drugs, there’s a certain subset that will abuse them…I would hate to see what has been a great project for this town blemished.”

Stewart encouraged officials to commit to the whole three month run before reassessing.

“There are so many variables,” she said. “With any new event, often times with the first one you work through a few kinks.”

While a final ordinance will need to be crafted before trustees tackle the issue again, even those with concerns like Mayor Dan Richardson seemed willing to take the leap.

“I really have strong reservations… but I feel like it’s worth trying,” he said.