Gainesville moves to reinstate open container ban 

Commissioner Ed Book speaks at Thursday's regular commission meeting.
Commissioner Ed Book speaks at a past regular Gainesville City Commission meeting.
By Seth Johnson

The Gainesville City Commission continued moving forward with a full reinstatement of its open container ordinance with another 4-3 vote on Thursday.  

A final vote will be needed on Oct. 26, and the open container ordinance will begin on Jan. 1.  

The 2024 start date allows the city to also design Arts, Culture and Entertainment districts that still allow open consumption of alcohol, especially around business and restaurant areas.  

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A second ordinance, passed 6-1 on Thursday, further instructs city staff on the regulations to include in those districts. These districts would also begin on Jan. 1 and need a final vote.  

“The goal is to achieve a compromise that honors both the concerns and hopes of most interested neighbors,” Mayor Harvey Ward said. “We’ve given our public safety professionals a tool to work with and kept a part of our city available for a variety of entertainment and cultural options.” 

The reinstatement will take Gainesville’s open container ordinance to where it stood before the COVID-19 pandemic—when the commission lifted the ordinance to help downtown businesses. If passed on second reading, open containers will not be allowed on public property.  

However, the new districts will allow “streeteries” and other open consumption of alcohol that downtown businesses have enjoyed. The motion on Thursday would allow open containers from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. 

The commission decided to revamp ordinance after requests from the Gainesville Police Department to help control late, roving parties. These gatherings brought problems in 2022, leading to the city closing parking garages after hours.  

City staff suggested rolling back the times when citizens could have open containers on public property. Their ordinance, brought forward in August, would have prevented open containers from 8 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. on Monday through Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday. 

But the City Commission voted 4-3 for a full repeal.  

On Thursday, Commissioner Reina Saco filed a motion to move forward with staff’s August recommendation instead of a full reinstatement to the pre-pandemic ordinance. That motion failed 3-4 with Saco, Commissioner Bryan Eastman and Commissioner Casey Willits in the minority.  

Commissioner Ed Book, who is the police chief at Santa Fe College, then proposed the full reinstatement, which passed with Mayor Harvey Ward, Commissioner Cynthia Chestnut and Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker in support.  

Eastman created the motion for the Arts, Culture and Entertainment districts, but he stripped parts of the recommendation by staff. His motion asked staff to return with a more simplified district for downtown that included Fourth Street and Grove Street and to remove limitations on glass bottles, drink limits and types of containers.  

That motion passed with only Book in dissent.

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