Open consumption could allow you to walk around with a drink in Wichita

Wichita, Kan. (KSNW) – The city is one step closer to allowing people to buy a drink and carry it outside in Wichita.

It’s called common consumption and there are no designated areas. At least not yet.

“We passed it in its current form, and we are going to continue to work with the state and some of our local businesses to find some fixes,” says James Clendenin, Wichita city council member. “Knowing who in the common areas is going to be responsible for those people carrying alcohol around, that’s going to be the real issue. We’ll continue to look at that and make sure people are being treated fairly, for sure.”

Clendenin and other city council members say a business can now apply for common consumption areas. Some say it’s an important step in establishing the city ordinance with the NCAA tournament coming to town.

“Two things run parallel here,” said Chad Stafford with Occidental Management in Wichita.

As a management company exec, Stafford went to city hall to ask questions on Tuesday about liability.

“You want to have the ordinance in place when the NCAA tournament arrives. That’s important for the rush on bars that want to participate in it,” said Stafford. “We support getting this in place now for that time period to get some great exposure for Wichita so we can showcase to people what we have going on in our downtown and our development. But, we’ve got to figure out how, when we establish the common consumption areas, the permit side of this. Is there only going to be one party on the permit? IF so, then who will be liable for people walking around drinking?”

Stafford says the open consumption will work well for places like around Union Station. He says an open consumption area could make for a festive atmosphere where hundreds could gather. But, he wonders what kind of security is needed for open consumption areas, and how many people have to be in an area before security is required.

Other businesses are asking what police will do.

“We’ve come immensely, a long way in Old Town, just from the aspect of drawing more people here. Getting people to live here, having businesses here,” says Don Wright with the Old Mill Tasty Shop. “For the common consumption concept? Oh, I think it’s always a good idea to have more police presence, especially when you have crowds. I think the city does a great job when we have Wichita festivals, the Riverfest, any of those events. I think they do a really good job of the police being there but not like a police state.”

But Wright says he knows security is about more than just a police presence.

“I don’t think it’s about the police not doing their job at all, I just think it’s about having a good structure for that kind of (common consumption) a system,” said Wright. “And I think it’s great for the city and I think it’s great for the businesses to work together that way.”

As the city says it is in the middle of working out details on common consumption areas, businesses can now apply for an open (common) consumption area. City leaders say they need to be cautious.

“Not just anybody is going apply and then all of a sudden they can have people walking around with open containers,” says Clendenin. “We’re friendly to businesses and those that want to come visit and spend money here. And if alcohol can be served in a safe way, where it’s contained but people can walk in a common area? That’s something that other cities are doing to be more inviting to visitors so we’d like to do what we can to provide that type of environment. As for the liability, there are absolutely legitimate concerns. We want to be able to make sure that if somebody misbehaves that somebody is held liable. And that somebody that has no control over that is not being held liable for that, so we do have to work past that but it was passed in its current form today.”

Clendenin says streets can be closed for temporary common consumption areas if it’s deemed appropriate for an individual event. He also businesses can now apply.

The application fee is $100, applicants have to meet certain requirements like no felony in the last five years and the owner must be 21. There also has to be a security plan and the business has to provide proof of liability.


Get breaking news, weather and traffic on the go. Download our News App and our Weather App for your phone and tablet. Follow and like us on Facebook and Twitter.