Bangor committee recommends extending outside drinking hours downtown

Posted May 11, 2012, at 6:18 p.m.
Last modified May 11, 2012, at 6:48 p.m.

BANGOR, Maine — If the City Council heeds a committee recommendation, downtown diners and drinkers will have two more hours to consume alcohol at outdoor tables.

The council’s business and economic development committee met Wednesday and voted 4-1 to approve changing a city ordinance enacted in 1991 that established a 10 p.m. outdoor drinking curfew. The new time, pending a council vote Monday night, would be midnight for patrons at downtown Bangor businesses.

“A lot of things have happened since that was enacted, primarily downtown, opening things up more for this type of adjustment,” said committee member and Councilor Nelson Durgin. “We have Penobscot Theater, Waterfront Concerts, outdoor movies, the Cool Sounds concerts and other things drawing people downtown, and 10 seems like a rather arbitrary time to tell people they have to either go inside or go home.”

Councilor Ben Sprague said this change would go hand in hand with the desire by the council and civic organizations to encourage further revitalization of downtown and West Market Square.

“Having a drink outside on a summer evening in downtown Bangor allows you to see the best of what Bangor has to offer, but there’s also a tipping point over the course of the evening where you can also start to see the worst Bangor has to offer,” said Sprague. “Personally, I think that tipping point occurs more around 1 or 2 a.m.”

To that end, Councilor Charlie Longo recommended instituting the change on a one-year trial basis and revisiting it next spring to see whether any changes are necessary. This was endorsed by the committee.

The curfew covers sidewalk space used by downtown restaurants and pubs. Eateries and drinking establishments that have their own outdoor decks or structures connected to their property or separated from the sidewalk already are exempt from the 10 p.m. curfew.

One thing that wouldn’t change is the requirement that patrons going from inside an establishment to the outside area, or vice versa, may not bring their drinks with them. State law requires wait staff members to bring the drinks to the patrons after they relocate.

Councilors Sprague, Durgin, Longo and James Gallant voted in favor of the change. Only Councilor Geoffrey Gratwick voted against it, saying that he preferred the change be instituted at a slower pace.

“The only main concern with this issue is anytime you get people outside, especially with alcohol, there are possibly going to be noise issues,” said Sprague. “That’s why we think the trial basis is a good idea.”

Another suggestion was to have a more pronounced police presence downtown, if possible.

“I’m not too concerned about the noise,” said Durgin. “We’re really only talking about it taking effect for five months out of the year. The noise issue is something we’ll just have to be careful about. More police is good, but merchants will also have to police themselves.”

The idea was brought to councilors by some of the downtown merchants.

“We weren’t expecting to vote on it that day, but it went through the committee rather quickly and there was general consensus on it.,” said Durgin.

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