Mayor pours cold water on Marietta Square open containers

The iconic fountain in Marietta Square. (Photo by Marietta Visitors Bureau)

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The iconic fountain in Marietta Square. (Photo by Marietta Visitors Bureau)

A proposal to allow restaurant patrons to carry alcoholic beverages around Marietta Square was poured down the drain by Mayor Steve Tumlin, who rejected the measure at Wednesday’s City Council meeting.

Tumlin said he vetoed the measure because he felt Marietta Square is known for its family-friendly vibe and allowing open containers could “have the potential” to threaten that atmosphere. The mayor added he didn’t believe his veto will bring a halt to activity on Marietta Square.

“The world is not going to stop one way or another,” he said. “The square was hopping this morning.”

The open container proposal, which was on its second reading at the May 8 meeting, would have created an open-container district where patrons can carry out alcoholic drinks from restaurants within a designated area for a six month period on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays. Marietta's district would have included the popular square with its shops, restaurants and bars.

Councilwoman Cheryl Richardson, who was asked by downtown merchants to bring the measure forward for a vote, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that the only way she believes it could pass in the future is for the merchants to speak directly to City Council members about the benefits of having relaxed rules in place.

Alexis Kinsey, co-owner of Taqueria Tsunami, said she was disappointed to hear of Tumlin’s veto. Kinsey, one of the downtown merchants who pushed for the proposal, said she believed the initiative would have enhanced the downtown Marietta market. Kinsey said she believes entertainment districts will continue to become more common around metro Atlanta.

“I would personally would like to push forward with it for a trial period,” she said.

RELATEDMarietta may ban e-cigarettes, but welcome open containers

Visitors to the square Thursday afternoon said they would have supported the proposal. Emily Gilmer, a Kennesaw State University student, regularly visits the Square’s restaurants with her friends.

While there will always be one person who overindulges, she feels safe in the area due to its police presence and the prevalence of ride-sharing services.

Cindy Price of Marietta added she didn’t think the family-friendly atmosphere on the square would be threatened, as the designated times outlined in the ordinance tend to draw more adults.

“I’m OK with it as long as the constraints are there,” she said.

At Wednesday’s council meeting, Tumlin vetoed the measure after it passed 5-1-1, with Councilmen Grif Chalfant opposing and Joseph Goldstein abstaining. Councilwoman Richardson then called for another vote to override the mayor’s veto. That measure failed 4-2-1, with Councilman Johnny Walker joining Chalfant in his dissent and Goldstein abstaining once again.

Walker said he voted against overriding Tumlin’s veto because he had great respect for the mayor. He also said he didn’t feel strongly either way about the proposal.

“I’ve lived in Marietta all my life and the Square is booming moreso than it ever has,” he added. “I feel like everyone can still go up there and have a great time.”

Chalfant said the proposal would have opened the door for teenagers to begin collecting the plastic cups used by restaurants for open containers and filling them with alcohol to drink on the square.

Richardson said city leaders don’t have a problem with allowing residents to drink “to their heart’s content” at city-sponsored events such as the Glover Park Concert Series and Taste of Marietta.

Pat Kinder of Woodstock, who was visiting Glover Park with his dog on Thursday, said the entertainment district in that city has drawn a lot of people to that city’s downtown area. He seemed puzzled about Marietta’s hesitation to move ahead with the ordinance.

“They have concerts out here with people and alcohol all the time,” he said.

Another Kennesaw resident, Carolyn Harris, also visits the Square a few times a month for the restaurants. Harris said she believes the ordinance would not have resulted in a younger or more irresponsible crowd venturing into the Square for drinks. If anything, Harris said relaxing the rules could propel more people to visit the area and get to know their neighbors.

“There’s never been any type or violence or [anything] where I feel unsafe,” she added.

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