Denver considering outdoor open-container areas

Glasses of Avery beer

Glasses of Avery beer (Photo credit: lpolinsky)

When it comes to open container laws, what is the first city that you think of? Las Vegas? New Orleans? What if I told you Denver would soon be on the short list of cities allowing open containers of booze on their streets?

Given the amount of breweries, restaurants and bars – as well as the already-lax public drinking rules in city parks, an open container area in Downtown Denver would make perfect sense. Surprisingly, Denver wouldn’t be the first in Colorado to have success with open container laws. That honor goes to Greeley, which created Colorado’s first common consumption area back in March. From 5 p.m. until midnight during the summer months, visitors to Greeley’s Ninth Avenue were able to enjoy their beer, wine and cocktails while freely roaming around the street.

According to Greeley officials and residents, the open container-friendly area was a resounding success this past summer. So much so that other Colorado cities, most notably Denver and Loveland, are following in Greeley’s footsteps and setting up a process to establish the similar common consumption areas. Thanks to a law passed by the Colorado legislature in 2011, cities now have the ability to create entertainment districts that allow for common consumption areas where you can possess an open container and drink while walking inside the designated area.

While the process has been set in motion, it looks like the glory days of open containers for Denver are at least a few months away (and, frankly, who would want to drink outside in the dead of winter? Actually, don’t answer that). According to Brittany Morris Saunders, vice president of public affairs with the Downtown Denver Partnership, the city and county are currently developing the application process for entertainment districts, but there is no timetable for when the process will be finalized and the first application accepted.

To pass time while the wheels of government move at a government-y (read: slow) pace, we came up with a few areas of the city that might welcome an open container area:

  • Larimer Square – An obvious choice with more than 20 venues that serve some form of alcohol, Larimer Square would make an ideal open consumption area during the warmer months.
  • Blake Street – If I ran the Colorado Rockies (spoiler: I don’t), I would push for Blake Street between 19th and 22th Streets to serve as an open container area on Saturdays or Sundays during the season. The ability to mingle on Blake while sipping top-notch craft beers from Falling Rock Tap House before Rockies games could do wonders for attendance.
  • Santa Fe – Like Larimer Square, the Santa Fe Arts District would be a clear fit for an open container area. The area already hosts the vibrant and well-attended First Fridays so why not open Santa Fe Drive up between Seventh and 10th Avenues so visitors can enjoy an adult beverage while sampling the food vendors and moving between exhibits?
  • Highlands Square – Another part of town that has a great mix of restaurants, bars and shops, the Highlands Square area could be an ideal open container-friendly area. Put a live band in the parking lot across from Mondo Vino to give visitors a soundtrack as they bounced between watering holes and shops with beers in hand and you’ve got yourself a good ole’ fashioned street party.

Did we miss an area that you think would be a hit? Let us know in the comments below.


About Peter MacKellar

A native Coloradan who thinks our fine state offers the best beer and snow anywhere in the U.S., Peter recently moved back to Denver after spending a few years in New York City.