MARIETTA — This past weekend marked the debut of downtown Marietta’s entertainment district, where patrons of local bars and restaurants can now carry alcoholic beverages on the Square and surrounding streets.
Adopted by the City Council last week, the district officially opened for business at 5 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 12.
Red Hare Brewing’s new Still on the Square location saw lines out the door in its third weekend since opening on Oct. 28. Daphne Leveque, general manager, said she thought the entertainment district’s opening weekend was a hit.
Customers had already been enjoying the bar’s outdoor patio, as it allows for more socially distant drinking, but shared their approval of the option to order a “roadie” and go for a stroll.
“Thirty, 40 percent of the people that were drinking decided to get a (to-go) container,” Leveque said. Their only complaint was they couldn’t do so during Sunday brunch, as open containers on the Square are still prohibited all day Sundays.
Alexis Kinsey, who owns several businesses downtown including Stockyard and Taqueria Tsunami, did not see a surge in business over the weekend. Several of her restaurants did not have the required 12-ounce plastic cups in stock and were unable to serve drinks to-go. She believed it would take time, and warmer weather, for the idea to catch on.
Gary Leake, owner of Johnnie MacCracken’s pub, agreed with that assessment.
“You have to create an environment of a festival. It has to be a culture that has to be created,” he said.
Leake was opposed to the entertainment district when it was taken up by the City Council last year. Citing the cost to taxpayers of enforcement, along with the difficulty of policing the boundaries of Glover Park (where alcoholic drinks are still not allowed), he agreed with Mayor Steve Tumlin’s veto of that proposal.
But he noted that, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the increased elbow room of the Square would be an attractive option for some customers.
“There’s no question that a lot of people are uncomfortable about being in tight spaces,” he said.
Leake remains certain the relaxed open container restrictions won’t be the savior of restaurants downtown.
“To-go is a myth for this segment of business that is being hurt the most,” he said. “There’s no doubt it’s better than the alternative,” he added, but it won’t be an “instant fix.”
The entertainment zone will be in effect for a yearlong trial period as Marietta joins several other metro-area downtowns that allow open container drinking, including Smyrna, Roswell, Woodstock and Lawrenceville.