A search through old bookmarks yields this treatment of two vitally important topics, beer and downtown revitalization, combined in one article, as culled from the archives of BEER BASICS.COM (Vol. 04 No. 24 --- 18 June 2003).
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CHANGES IN DRINKING CULTURE ARE CHANGING DOWNTOWNS
The changing style of drinking places is changing the face of downtowns across the country and, at the same time, changing the way local governments look at on-premise alcohol sales.
In many communities pubs, brewpubs and restaurants that serve alcohol but have more of a family atmosphere, are replacing traditional taverns.
According to Bill Ryan, a specialist for the Center for Community Economic Development at the University of Wisconsin, it's a matter of business owners staying competitive in today's market.
“There has been a trend in the Midwest away from small taverns simply because of changes in consumer behavior coupled with the fact that these businesses are not very profitable," Ryan said.
In many cases pubs and restaurants opening have been key to the revitalization of downtown areas.
"Certainly, one of the trends in downtown revitalization is to focus on food and entertainment -- brew pubs, ethnic restaurants, street cafes, etc.," he said. "Downtown retail has moved away from general merchandise of 30 years ago to specialty retail that, combined with food and entertainment, create a "sense of place" downtown.
Both large cities and smaller communities benefit from this shift in drinking culture.
The Lower Downtown, or LoDo, area of Denver was more of an an urban frontier known more for winos than trendy lofts before John Hickenlooper, recently elected Danver’s next mayor, opened Wynkoop Brewing Co., there. Wynkoop is now a city landmark in a revitalized LoDo.
When Old Oar House Brewery co-owner Brian Tomlin purchased a liquor license in downtown Millville, a community of 27,000 people in southern New Jersey, he originally planned to resell it.
"I was looking at the liquor license as an investment," said Tomlin. "I had no intention of opening up a business."
Tomlin's mind changed when he found a building that he felt could work as a pub in the downtown. At the time, there were no existing establishments of its kind.
“We were the first," Tomlin said, looking back to when the business opened on North High Street in December 1999. "We opened the pub to see if it would work in Millville. We didn't know if it would work or not, but obviously it did."
The Old Oar House represents the pioneering spirit that contributed to the growth of the downtown arts district. Now, two other eating establishments with liquor licenses -- BoJo's Ale House and Winfield's -- are feeding off this success. Instead of one destination of its kind for food and drink, there are three. And behind each new business is a liquor license that had to be obtained through the purchase of another existing business, usually a traditional tavern.
In addition to economic advantages of this shift, Millville Police Chief Ronald J. Harvey said the change will impact the culture of alcohol consumption.
"These are not strictly your 'bars' that are opening up," he said. "They
have a more family-type atmosphere."
Harvey doesn't anticipate a dramatic change on police enforcement, but said that this change in culture does have potential to cut back on police calls.
"It doesn't have a dramatic change on our line of work," he said, noting that police presence is concentrated near bars at closing time to prevent problems from breaking out. "But it does cut down on the number of service calls, because you don't have people going into a restaurant for the purpose of consuming alcohol for four or five hours."
Gladis McGraw, chairperson of the Millville’s Third Ward Neighborhood Group, said the effects on the neighborhood often depend on the establishment and what effort the bar owner makes to limit trouble spilling out of the bar late at night. She added that losing corner bars to more full-scale restaurants in less populated areas can have positive results, but said that certain establishments with conscientious owners do not currently pose a threat.
Local artist and bar patron Carl Johnson, who works as a bartender at BoJo's, likes this diversification. "I think we have plenty of room for both types of establishments," Johnson said. "And I think each will attract a different clientele.
"When I want to go out for a few quiet drinks, I will end up at a neighborhood 'old man' bar where one can sit down and solve the world's problems. When I am in the mood to party, then I seek one of the ones with a club atmosphere. For good food, I still don't think one can beat some of the local neighborhood bars that serve excellent cheesesteaks or cheeseburgers."