New entertainment zone would help festivals

COVINGTON, Ky. - The City of Covington is poised to adopt a regulation that - during certain festivals and special events - would allow visitors to walk between establishments throughout parts of downtown with an open beer, cup of bourbon or other alcohol.
“It will NOT allow people to run wild through the streets of Covington with open containers whenever they choose,” City Solicitor Michael Bartlett said. “But it will - when certain conditions are met - allow certain licensed businesses to interact with festivals or other events going on at their doorsteps.”
The ordinance, which goes before the Covington City Commission on May 28 for a second reading and vote, creates a zone called an “Entertainment Destination Center.” It’s similar to Fourth Street Live in Louisville and a newly created zone in Maysville called The Landing at Limestone.
Covington leaders believe it will help promote the City and boost tourism during special events such as the Kentucky’s Edge bourbon and music festival and conference coming to Covington and Newport on Oct. 4-5. Organizers of Kentucky’s Edge - which will attract people from across the country - sought the new EDC zone.
“Covington’s urban core is surging with energy, and the City is receiving an increasing number of requests for special events involving restaurants, bars, and other entertainment attractions,” City Manager David Johnston said. “This entertainment zone simply would give us another tool to showcase that resurgence while instituting protections that ensure safety, security and moderation.”
Covington created an EDC zone in early 2018 that applied only to the raised plaza that runs in front of the RiverCenter office and restaurant complex along the Ohio River.
If the new boundaries are approved by the Commission, that zone expands to become a much larger, amoeba-shaped district that includes MainStrasse Village, the northern part of the Central Business District, the Duveneck Square area, and the Roebling Point District. Eighth Street is its most southern boundary.
Bartlett stressed that the “zone” is a paper designation only. The freedom to drink alcohol in public areas is “triggered” only if establishments or an event organizer seeks and receives a City Special Event permit, and that freedom will apply only to the applicable Special Event location within the larger EDC zone.
The Special Event Permit requires applicants to address issues related to safety, security, the creation of “barriers” around the designated area.
Bartlett said this EDC is different from the earlier one in that state law was changed to allow local governments to apply for and hold an ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) license, since the City owns the public spaces. This gives the City more flexibility in authorizing larger temporary zones for festivals such as the bourbon festival in October, Bartlett said.
The City Commission will hear a presentation about the City’s ABC application at its meeting tonight with a possible vote next Tuesday night as well.
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