Steamboat extends public consumption ordinance to November, modifies outdoor seating rules
Steamboat Springs City Council has extended an ordinance allowing public consumption of alcohol in the downtown area.
City Council first enacted the ordinance to help businesses struggling during COVID-19 in May 2020. As businesses were not able to operate at full capacity, the city gave them the option to sell alcohol in takeout cups, though the cups had to be labeled and sealed.
Once customers obtain a takeout alcoholic drink, they are now able to drink it outside of the restaurant boundaries, though they are not allowed to bring it into another business.
“It’s been pretty much zero impact,” said City Manager Gary Suiter. “There were some concerns about drunks running around in the street, but we haven’t really seen that.”
Rob Day, general manager at The Barley Tap and Tavern, said the change allowed the bar to adapt in ways they would not have been able to otherwise.
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“It gave us a chance to actually make more money with to-go stuff,” Day said.
Day said the bar has seen occasional issues with customers bringing in drinks from other businesses, but all have been respectful and either left the establishment or thrown the drink away when told about the rules.
“I just feel like every once in a while you get certain groups of people in, and they think it’s Vegas, and it’s not,” Day said. “It’s not a major concern, but it’s definitely something I was worried about in the beginning.”
Scott Engleman, owner of Carl’s Tavern and Truffle Pig, and chair of the Colorado Restaurant Association, said he has used the extended ordinance to begin selling alcohol at the Main Street Steamboat Farmers Market every Saturday, and he believes he is the only restaurant doing so.
“On Saturdays, that accounts for probably 15% to 20% of our sales for the day,” Engleman said.
While the ordinance is currently set to expire in November, City Council could choose to extend it indefinitely. Engleman said he supports a decision to do that but believes the city should have more clearly defined rules that do not leave room for ambiguity.
“I think the specifics and parameters maybe need to be defined a little bit more if it’s going to something that’s going to be ongoing,” Engleman said. “But I think it’s great, particularly in the summer with all the activity down here.”
In 2020, council also lifted rules preventing restaurants from offering seating in parking lots and streets, effectively paving the way for restaurants to expand their businesses outside, which was beneficial when the state and county put limits on indoor seating capacity.
“It’s been super helpful for us to accommodate guests that are still concerned about the virus and transmitting the virus,” said Jeff Goodhand, co-owner of Mountain Tap Brewery. “It’s also something visitors are becoming more accustomed to.”
While the city has not yet worked out the specifics, council members directed Planning Director Rebecca Bessey to research rolling back some of the exemptions allowing restaurants to operate business in parking lots and streets after Labor Day, as Suiter said the city received several complaints from residents who said they felt tables in parking lots and streets caused an annoyance and safety hazard.
Though some outdoor seating may go away after Labor Day, Suiter said sidewalk operations are likely here to stay.
“It does add a certain vitality to downtown when you see sidewalk seating and people outdoors,” Suiter said.
To reach Alison Berg, call 970-871-4229 or email aberg@SteamboatPilot.com.
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