Proposed ordinance could make drinking with an open container legal on the Riverwalk

The city of Jacksonville is one step closer to expanding open container laws on the downtown Riverwalks.

Many Jacksonville residents and visitors enjoy the Riverwalk for great downtown views, exercise benefits and opportunities to bond with their pets. The city is hoping expanding open container laws will help increase economic activity.

The city council ordinance proposes creating a specialty center along the Northbank and Southbank Riverwalks to allow drinking alcoholic beverages from designated cups between 11 a.m. and 1 a.m.

Morgan Tencza was visiting from Tampa with her dog, Benny. She said Tampa allows open containers on the Riverwalk.

“I think it’s a fun experience, but it also has to be very well controlled,” Tencza said.

Under the ordinance, people can’t have more than two designated cups at a time, and drinking in public parks along the Riverwalk would not be allowed except during permitted events.

Dwight Clay moved to Jacksonville from New Orleans, Louisiana, two years ago and said there are pros and cons to the ordinance.

“It can be a good thing if it’s done properly, and people respect others and are more disciplined with their public drinking,” Clay said. “But I think that when we crossed the line into public drunkenness, and maybe some may not know how to contain their alcohol at the time, it could prove to be problematic.”

Morgan Abrahamson is a lifelong Jacksonville resident. He enjoys taking his dog, Sophie, on a daily Riverwalk stroll. While he’s okay with open container laws during certain events, he thinks Jacksonville needs to grow before they scale back open container laws.

“I want Jacksonville to grow as a city. I think there’s a lot of potential. But until there’s more things to do downtown, I don’t think lessening the drinking down here, open containers is going to do much until there’s more development,” Abrahamson said.

The city council did not vote on the ordinance at the meeting, and only one person spoke during public comment.

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