Omahans are one step closer to sipping alcoholic beverages outside of bars and restaurants in certain areas of the city.
The Omaha City Council unanimously passed an ordinance Tuesday to allow for the creation of entertainment districts.
The ordinance, passed 7-0 without discussion, enables developers to create areas for Omahans to take their alcoholic beverages outdoors. It aims to promote economic growth close to entertainment venues.
Representatives from Aksarben Village and the under-construction Capitol District have said they will apply to become the city’s first entertainment districts.
Assistant City Attorney William Acosta-Trejo said the city will now take steps to create an application for entertainment districts and decide how the creation of the areas will be processed within city government. Still, the city should see the first entertainment districts in the “near future.”
Acosta-Trejo said he believed the Capitol District would be the first area of the city to utilize the new ordinance, and that the city’s process to create entertainment districts would be completed as the buildings at 10th Street and Capitol Avenue are constructed. The Aksarben entertainment district would be developed around the site of the under-construction HDR tower.
City Councilman Chris Jerram, who represents some of downtown and the Aksarben Village area, said the council would work to ensure that the creation of the districts would be compatible with the neighborhoods they’re in.
At a Jan. 10 public hearing, Chris Wagner, the policy and research coordinator for Project Extra Mile, expressed concern about whether the areas would encourage underage or unsafe drinking. Project Extra Mile is an organization that seeks to reduce harm connected to alcohol.
But Jerram said developers of the entertainment districts would be invested in keeping the areas under control.
“If you have people not coming to your hotel because it’s a noisy place, or having people who don’t want to frequent the restaurants or businesses around the entertainment district because they’re unruly or dangerous, then that is something they’d have zero motivation to do,” he said.
Under the ordinance, only areas close to entertainment venues or arenas would be able to become entertainment districts. The areas would also be required to operate under a common owner or promotional association and would be subject to two-year licenses granted by the City Council.
The city’s decision follows in the footsteps of other communities with similar areas, such as Kansas City’s Power & Light District.
Omaha’s ordinance is similar to Lincoln’s, where the Railyard welcomes patrons to a common area bordered by shops and restaurants across the street from the Pinnacle Bank Arena.