Old Town entertainment district closer to becoming a reality

WICHITA, Kansas – On Tuesday, the Wichita City Council gave first approval to creating an Old Town entertainment district.

It makes certain crimes more serious. Those crimes include loitering, assault, and disorderly conduct. Offenders could get a mandatory $500 fine.

Officials with the Old Town Association say 100 percent of business owners are on board with the proposed changes that will hopefully make the area safer at night.

“I’d heard that there were some issues late at night here in Old Town, and so I think that reputation, not only Wichitans hear about it, but visitors would hear about it as well,” said David Bisek, Wichita resident.

Now, city officials are hoping to turn that around.

“Old Town is just a really great and safe place to go and have a good time,” said Jason Van Sickle, Old Town Association. “The problem that we’ve had, has been in a very narrow window of late nights on Saturday’s especially.”

With Tuesday’s vote, changes will be coming including more police presence around closing times from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m.

Something Drew Thompson, owner of Public in Old Town, thinks could have a big impact on the perception people have of the area.

“Just to have that presence here, of having uniformed officers here while those crowds are dispersing, I think will make people feel a lot safer and have them realize that this a fun safe district that you can come down and go bar to bar and walk around,” said Thompson.

The new ordinance will bring more serious fines.

It include a new violation for loitering which carries a $500 mandatory fine.

Officials say they aren’t concerned that it may deter people from a visit.

“The fines really are only going to be on people who flagrantly break the law. People who are law abiding or have the right heart when they come down here don’t have to worry about it,” said Van Sickle.

Businesses aren’t worried either.

“It’s not a concern for me, getting that issue solved of just having those people, having everyone be able to get to their car safely, get to transportation safely, having police there on hand in case anyone gets a little out of hand, far outweighs any concern that I have about that,” added Thompson.

The ordinance is not on the books just yet.

The city council will meet again to decide whether to make Old Town the first entertainment district in Wichita.

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