Flats East Bank applies for Cleveland’s first open container zone

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CLEVELAND - You've seen it in Vegas and New Orleans. Now, developers of the Flats East Bank have applied for Cleveland's first open container zone.

The outdoor refreshment area would include the entire East Bank during weeknights and weekends, according to a petition submitted to Cleveland City Council by project developers and the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. A revised petition was submitted Thursday, a city spokesperson said.

The initial petition maps out a zone surrounded by the Aloft hotel, Main Street, Cuyahoga River and Port of Cleveland that would be marked by seven signs. It would be in effect from 5 p.m. to 12 a.m. Monday through Thursday and until 2 a.m. Friday. Hours of operation on weekends would be from 12 p.m. to 2 a.m.

Under the proposal, all open alcoholic beverages in the outdoor refreshment area must be purchased at an East Bank bar or restaurant. The business would supply plastic cups, and possibly be required to supply an official cup that customers could purchase for up to $1 per drink to help fund additional security and clean up crews. Patrons would not be able to take a drink purchased from one establishment into another, but they could walk around within the area, including along the river boardwalk.

"The number one question is, 'Oh, can we take our beer to go?' said Beerhead Bar manager Nick Foster. "I think it's a matter of not only is it convenient, but it encourages you to wander around more instead of being anchored down to one place or another, because we're all in this together."

Representatives of 11 of 13 businesses in the development, including Beerhead, signed a petition supporting the outdoor refreshment area.

"Via this legislation, at any point if something doesn't work out, city council can dissolve it immediately," said Ward 3 Councilman Kerry McCormack.

McCormack said he was working with Flats East Bank developers on revisions that would add more details to the plan, including possibly limiting the use of parking lots to events. He pointed out that the outdoor refreshment area designation would eliminate the need for the temporary liquor permits that Flats East Bank has obtained for its common outdoor festivals, and said it would open up the riverfront area to more programming.

"The folks that have the most to lose here are the developers of the Flats East Bank, so they have the complete intention of making sure this is run properly and run to the best, so it's a great program space and also a safe space," McCormack said.

Those causing a disturbance or who are publicly drunk could face arrest, according to the petition.

"I think it's great, we kind of already do (have this) with the festivals around here, but if it's a great way to keep the people around here, I'm all for it," said Britt Leiser, who lives in an East Bank apartment.

The petition would have to be approved by council.

McCormack said he could not predict when that might happen or when the area could take effect. He said no other neighborhoods have yet expressed interest in forming an outdoor refreshment area.

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