Party Time in Cripple Creek

imagesParty time arriving in Cripple Creek

Rick Langenberg

Cripple Creek could soon become the only town in Colorado where visitors, gamblers and business patrons can sip their favorite alcoholic beverages of choice 24 hours a day inside a designated casino or an outdoor seating area.

As a result, the Creek gambling community could gain a niche as a real gaming party town with possibly a Las Vegas or New Orleans-style festive flair.

The Cripple Creek City Council is expected to pass an emergency ordinance at its next meeting, scheduled for May 20, which would legalize the establishment of a common consumption, entertainment district. This would allow more flexibility regarding the consumption of beer, wine and all alcoholic beverages throughout the downtown area. A few communities in the state sport entertainment districts, but Cripple Creek would emerge as the sole common consumption area in Colorado that operates on a 24-hour basis. “We would be the first one in the state,” said City Administrator Ray DuBois.

Currently, no alcohol sales can occur inside Cripple Creek casinos between 2 and 8 a.m., a restriction that puts a damper on 24/7 operations, according to many reports.

City elected leaders, though, plan initially to keep the district restricted to an area within the confines of participating casinos and bars/restaurants, and don’t want the activity to occur along public sidewalks and the main street. Some exceptions, however, could occur for certain special events.

According to DuBois, the common consumption area would encompass the entire gaming district.

The idea of a common consumption area received the informal support of the city council during a briefing provided by DuBois at last week’s regular meeting. For the most part, the elected leaders noted that if the new entertainment district helps the bottom line of local casinos, then the city should support the district with certain guidelines.

“I see it as an advantage,” said DuBois, who has studied this issue for several months. He believes it could help Cripple Creek gain a competitive advantage over other towns in Colorado in the entertainment arena. He said the idea has been strongly supported by the local gaming association.

“I think it is good,” added Councilman Milford Ashworth. “They (Cripple Creek casino revenue) are what we live off.”

But that said, the council members indicated a desire to receive more public comment. They asked city attorney Lee Phillips to craft both an emergency ordinance and a regular ordinance regarding the formation of a common consumption area. The latter step would take more time to adopt.

But with an emergency law, the stage would be set for the city to have a common consumption, entertainment district in time for the summer season.

Both proposed measures will be presented during the May 20 council session.

Phillips cautioned the council that the pro-common consumption law merely opens the door for the formation of the district. He said it doesn’t mean that local businesses have to serve alcohol on a 24/7 basis, or that the city has no say in regulating the area. “What you are proposing is the enabling legislation,” said Phillips, who cited a city ordinance as the initial criteria for creating a common consumption district, with the city acting as the liquor authority. The idea of a 24/7 common consumption district became a legal reality with action taken by state lawmakers in 2014.

Under this pact, the proposed entertainment district still requires the formation of a special promotional association and board of directors, which would set the rules.

One of the more successful common consumption areas in Colorado is located in Greeley, which permits the open carrying of alcoholic beverages on a certain section of the downtown district for certain hours in the summer with specific rules. For example, alcoholic beverages have to be carried outdoors in designated cups provided by the participating businesses.

During last week’s discussion, local non-gaming business owner Bill Burcaw urged the council to restrict the district to an area within the confines of local casinos/businesses and not to permit a free-for-all on Bennett Avenue and along the sidewalks. Burcaw, who owns the 9494 shop, cited the possibilities of trashing up the sidewalks, if people carry beverages outside of casinos. He reminded the council of the investment the city made into improving its main street area.

The business owner didn’t get any arguments from DuBois or the council members, who expressed a desire to restrict the common consumption area to within the business properties themselves. But if a casino or a local bar has an outdoor patio area, this common consumption activity could occur outside. This may create a demand for the development of more outdoor, entertainment areas in Cripple Creek.

Following last week’s discussion, Cripple Creek Police Chief Mike Rulo said he doesn’t see any problems with the proposed common consumption district. “It really comes down to how it is managed,” said Rulo

According to Rulo, the new district won’t open the door for people drinking alcohol on Bennett Avenue. And if the entertainment district is expanded for certain events or festivals to include parts of the main street and on sidewalks, such as what happens in Greeley, the designated area couldn’t permit any motorists or vehicles of any kind, and would have to be fenced off.