Denver, CO

Denver OKs alcohol consumption areas, awards $5 million to Rescue Mission

David Heitz
(Julia Nastogadka/Unplash)

Soon, partiers at local bars will be able to move around a bit more with their alcoholic beverage.

That’s because the Denver City Council approved Monday the formation of common alcohol consumption areas. This means that several bars could apply together for a license, and patrons would be able to move with their drinks from bar to bar, or in an outside common area.

The council will need to vote on the measure again at its May 10 meeting before it can become law.

Permitting will begin 45 days after that. Bars and restaurants applying for the licenses will have to designate restrooms for the common area. They also will need safety and sanitation plans.

In a presentation to council, city staff emphasized, “Denver will not become Bourbon Street. Patrons will not be allowed to take alcohol anywhere they want. Common consumption will not be licensed without neighborhood support.”

The state legalized alcohol consumption areas in 2010. For the past several years, Denver has been monitoring other cities that created common consumption programs. Those include Glendale and Aurora.

Drinking allowed in ‘entertainment districts’

Common areas in alcohol consumption include “entertainment districts,” according to city staff. Those are defined as “An area of the city that is no larger than 100 acres and contains at least 20,000 square feet of total liquor-licensed premises. Each entertainment district must be approved by City Council.”

There are several areas of Denver where bars clustered together could propose entertainment districts. Blake Street comes to mind.

Common consumption area licenses differ from special event licenses. They allow existing liquor establishments to sell alcohol at the event, rather than bringing in outside liquor licensees.

“In this event example, patrons of the restaurants and bars may take their beverage into the common consumption area and consume there as they travel up and down the street,” city staff showed the council in a mock situation. “Patrons may also take their beverages into the hat store, the dress shop, and the bookstore. Dispensaries that neighbor common consumption areas cannot allow consumption of alcohol on their premises, and no consumption of marijuana may take place within a common consumption area.”

Common consumption areas must be closed to vehicles. Common consumption areas must close to the public by 2 a.m.

Another $5 million spent on homeless services

Also Monday the City Council awarded a $5 million grant to the Denver Rescue Mission for 24/7 shelter services and case management for people experiencing homelessness. In the past three weeks, the city has awarded tens of millions of dollars in contracts for homeless services.

The Denver Rescue Mission’s downtown location is iconic. For years it has served as the face of those experiencing homelessness in Denver.

I was homeless for about a year in Denver. I did utilize the services of Denver Rescue Mission for a while.

The mission’s main location is its Lawrence Street community center. The Lawrence Street location mostly is a feeding site but also is a place where homeless people can hang out and take a shower. There also are limited overnight accommodations at the Lawrence Street site.

Fighting, drugs inside the Rescue Mission

It can get dangerous inside the Rescue Mission when fights break out. Drugs are rampant. I used to wonder why the Denver Police Department did not open a substation at the Lawrence Street location. They almost always were there anyway. Ambulances also would come to the location several times per night most nights, often for overdoses.

I used to arrive at the Rescue Mission by 4:30 p.m. to mark a spot inside for the bus to the 48th and Colorado Street shelter. One night, I went to the restroom and when I came back there was a man sleeping in my bed at the shelter. He and another man were taking loudly to one another around midnight, which is in violation of the rules. When I reported these men to the worker on duty, I was told to leave.

I never went back to the Rescue Mission again. I often got the impression that the gang-bangers had intimidated the workers and were the ones running the show.

Rescue Mission offers help getting sober

“For people experiencing homelessness and poverty, basic needs like food, shelter, water, clean restrooms, showers, and laundry services can be difficult to access,” according to the Rescue Mission website. “And that instability can create a seemingly endless cycle of brokenness and depression, leading some people to abuse drugs and alcohol as an escape.

“We provide these services in order to build trust and develop relationships with the people we serve, encouraging them to consider long-term solutions.”

The Rescue Mission offers its New Life program for those looking to become sober. People enrolled in the program get a guaranteed bed every night.

“The New Life Program isn’t just a 30-day detox program,” according to the Rescue Mission’s website. “It’s a one-year, immersive, foundation-building, life-changing program. While in the program, some participants even go on to higher education. Some qualifying participants also receive a vehicle when they finish the New Life Program.”

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I've been in the news business 35 years, spending much of my career in editing roles at local newspapers in Los Angeles, Detroit, and the Quad-Cities of Illinois and Iowa. Upon moving to Denver in 2018, I began experiencing severe mental illness due to several traumatic experiences. I became homeless on the street for about a year before spending time in the state mental hospital. I am living proof that people can rebound from mental illness with proper treatment, even after experiencing homelessness. I consider myself a lucky guy to live in a great place like Denver. I hope my writing reflects the passion I have for living here.

Denver, CO

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