City Council forms pilot program for downtown football festivities

Wednesday, September 4, 2013 | 10:25 a.m. CDT; updated 9:48 a.m. CDT, Thursday, September 5, 2013
City Council rejected Harpo’s proposal to close Cherry Street and waive open container laws in front of the bar during four football weekends this year at its meeting Tuesday night. Instead, the bar owners were invited to request one weekend that council would consider as a trial. Four other bars have also requested street closures. Five others will file requests, according to a letter to City Council from the owners of Bengals. The letter said the bars in question oppose Harpo’s request to close Cherry Street because the same privileges could not conceivably be granted to all downtown bars.

COLUMBIA — The Columbia City Council didn't approve the request of Harpo's Bar and Grill for a street closure permit and waiver of open-container restrictions for four SEC home game weekends.

Instead, the council decided at its Tuesday meeting to conduct a pilot program that would test the street closure and open-container waiver for one weekend.

The council asked Harpo's owners to resubmit their application for one weekend. The owners said they would prefer Oct. 26, homecoming weekend.

In July, Harpo's requested a street closure for Cherry Street between Ninth and Tenth streets. The Downtown Community Improvement District Board approved the application Aug. 15.

Four other downtown bar owners then followed Harpo's lead and also applied for street closures. Among them were Jack and Julie Rader, co-owners of Bengals, who said in an email to council members that owners of five additional downtown bars were preparing similar requests.

"As stated before, football games are the lifeblood of many downtown businesses, particularly sports bars," Jack Rader said in the email. "It would be completely unfair to allow Harpo's to expand onto their street for their exclusive benefit when most other downtown business would not be allowed to do the same."

First Ward Councilman Fred Schmidt expressed concern about downtown residents who live in buildings on Niedermeyer Street and Cherry Street being bothered by revelry on the street during early morning hours.

"They're going to have a hard time shutting this down at whatever time they think they are going to close it because people are just going to step outside the barrier," said Schmidt, whose constituency includes the downtown area around Harpo's.

Several council members expressed support for charging a fee for business owners who are granted street closures and open-container waivers.

"Because they are serving alcohol, we have to have police officers on overtime patrolling the streets," McDavid said.

The council approved a waiver of the open-container restriction for the annual Harvest Hootenanny Event on Oct. 5 from 3 p.m. until 8 p.m.

Supervising editor is Richard Webner.

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