December 11, 2014

Does Downtown Athens Have Too Many Bars?


The Athens Downtown Development Authority, at its next meeting Jan. 20, will discuss limiting the number of bars downtown.  

Coming in the wake of a Chronicle of Higher Education article that paints Athens as a poster-city for student drinking, it will be the first official discussion of a subject that's been unofficially discussed here for years.  (Correction: It's been discussed for years both officially and unofficially.)

In 2011, ACC commissioners studied and rejected putting limits on downtown bars. Local police said the number of bars presented no particular crime problem. At that time, something under half of downtown businesses had alcohol licenses (98 out of 223, including restaurants); today, 122 downtown businesses serve alcohol.

Citing the article, soon-to-be-commissioner Melissa Link addressed the ADDA on Tuesday to ask for "a real open discussion of what kind of policy and ordinance actions we can take to diversity our downtown environment." She needn't have bothered; limiting the number of alcohol licenses had already been added to next month's agenda by Commissioner Mike Hamby, also an ADDA board member.

Ironically, the first presentation at the ADDA meeting was by Chris Herron of Creature Comforts brewery, who recounted the young business' success story helped with a loan from ADDA. Responding to the suggestion of limiting bar licenses, Herron noted only that Creature Comforts urges its customers and those who tour its Hancock Avenue brewery to drink responsibly.

Initially at least, the ADDA will simply research what limits other communities have placed on alcohol licenses. Changes could be controversial; and would fewer bars even mean less drinking?