Inverness’ new entertainment district has proven itself and will continue to be a fixture at special events as the popularity of transporting alcohol around the city center from business to business grows .
The city launched the program last year, allowing downtown businesses to sell beer and wine and allowing customers to walk out with their drinks using a special city-issued mug. This allowed visitors to the city to stroll from business to business and sample different alcoholic beverages, in addition to strolling downtown with a drink or listening to live music.
City Manager Eric Williams will give City Council an update next week on the Entertainment District’s progress since its implementation.
The city initially tried the program during the 2021 Independence Day celebrations and it was a hit. After the event, Williams reported to his City Council bosses that the new entertainment district had been well received and that there were no problems with excessive drinking by the public. The city therefore expanded the use of the entertainment district.
The city has used the entertainment district during the following Cooter Festival in 2021 and during downtown live events every third Friday of the month.
The city is also looking to coordinate with local businesses and have them host events that can include the entertainment district.
“There’s a lot more success ahead of him,” Williams told the Chronicle. “I would say it’s a success.”
Before creating the downtown entertainment district, the city would allow local charities to set up food trucks to sell beer and wine to raise funds. But it was unfair to local businesses that had to keep customers indoors, Williams said.
In return, Williams said the city is giving charities new places to set up tables or sell goods to make money.
“We created a good balance,” he told the Chronicle.
Williams will give Inverness City Council an update at Tuesday’s council meeting on the city’s use of the entertainment district, including during the upcoming St. Patrick’s Day Parade and town center festivities March 12.
In addition to bringing visitors downtown, Williams said the entertainment district also helps attract new businesses and expand existing ones.
Williams said using the Entertainment District allowed the city to restrict alcohol consumption to a limited area. Prior to the creation of the district, visitors to the city center tried to walk tirelessly through the neighborhood before being arrested, he said.
“Now it’s exceeded our compliance expectations and it’s working well,” Williams said.
Cecil Everett, owner of Coach’s Pub & Eatery, said the business community views the entertainment district as a success.
“They should be doing it every day,” Everett told the Chronicle.
Until the new entertainment district, Everett said the city government frowns even if one of its customers leaves their business with only iced tea.
Everett applauded Williams for seeing the need for an entertainment district and working with state officials to create one in Inverness.
Everett said there was also a push for downtown to organize and host outdoor events such as music festivals and for the commercial sector to take on most of the work rather than just putting it on the shoulders of the town hall.
The city’s role then could be to provide organizational assistance and set up the entertainment district to enhance the event, Everett said.