FLORENCE — The city has expanded its entertainment district to include every weekend rather than one weekend a month.

The City Council approved the change this month after consulting with Police Chief Ron Tyler and downtown business owners.

An entertainment district is a downtown region that allows the public to carry alcohol outside of businesses within the region in specially marked cups.

"We talked to the chief and he said there hadn't been any incidents or problems with the entertainment district," said City Council President Dick Jordan, whose district includes downtown. "We tested it by having it monthly and it has been orderly. Everyone has followed the rules."

Jordan said he believes entertainment district weekends have helped bring visitors to the area, and the regulations keep things inconspicuous.

"You wouldn't even know an entertainment district is in Florence," he said. "It's been handled really well. It's brought some tourists and visitors to the downtown area to shop and eat at restaurants, and that's the purpose of it. It truly shows that we're a progressive city."

The only time during a weekend when the entertainment district will not be in effect is during First Fridays, but that only applies on those Fridays. The district is in effect on the Saturdays and Sundays of those weekends.

City officials said that exception was put in place to keep First Fridays a family event.

Stephanie Vess, director of Downtown Florence Alliance, said business owners have been pleased with the district weekends.

"They've been excited about it from the beginning," Vess said. "I haven't heard any complaints about it, and we had all positive responses about the continuation of it."

Vess said the special cups that are provided at businesses and restaurants that provide alcohol are "exit-only cups."

That means they cannot be taken into another business and cannot be taken back into the business that the customer had just left.

"Even if you're waiting for a table and decide to get a cocktail while you're waiting and you go outside to wait, you cannot take it back inside," Vess said.

Generally speaking, the entertainment district includes the square within Tuscaloosa Street, Pine Street, Wood Avenue, and College Street.

In addition, it includes the Court-Alabama-Seminary Street area that encircles the SunTrust Bank building. It also extends along College Street to Cherry Street and Dr. Hicks Boulevard to include Singing River Brewery.

The boundaries of the district extend to the street rights of way, which means the sidewalk across the street from the entertainment district is included.

Hours the district is in effect are 5 p.m. to midnight on Friday; 10 a.m. to midnight on Saturday; and 1-6 p.m. on Sunday.

bernie.delinski@timesdaily.com or 256-740-5739. Twitter @TD_BDelinski


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