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Rules about alcohol consumption could change for popular Fort Worth nightlife area

The Fort Worth city council scheduled to vote Tuesday on an ordinance restricting open containers. Violators could face up to a $500 fine.

FORT WORTH, Texas — The weekends are packed with thousands of bar patrons in the West 7th area of Fort Worth. There are 20 different bars for people to choose from within a few blocks of each other. 

But not everyone converging on the popular weekend destination goes inside the bars to drink. 

So now, Fort Worth city leaders are scheduled to vote on an ordinance to stop people from drinking alcohol on the street. Right now, there are no rules against having open containers in this part of the city.

Fatima Garcia and her friends enjoy the nightlife in the West 7th area. Garcia didn't even realize that there were no current rules in place to stop people from having an open container that contained alcohol on the street. 

Either way, they have always tried to avoid areas where bar patrons appear intoxicated on the street or in parking lots. 

"I'm usually on the street a little calmer," said Garcia, "So you don't see a lot of people very intoxicated as you do over there. But you will see people drinking inside their cars before they."

Marquis Hill lives on 7th Street and has seen it all. He and his friends enjoy the nightlife. But, they have also seen when things have gotten out of control on the weekends when someone has had too much to drink. 

"Some days it's quiet. I mean, like, it all depends," said Hill, "Mostly Fridays, like, it gets kind of crazy, very crazy. Some days it gets wild."

Because of some of those wild times and after meeting with bar owners and law enforcement leaders, Fort Worth city councilwoman Elizabeth Beck drafted an ordinance restricting open containers.

It would allow officers to issue $500 citations to people drinking alcohol on the streets inside a designated area around the 7th Street area.

Beck serves as the council member for that area. She was surprised to learn that there were not some restrictions on open containers. 

Instead of waiting for things to get worse, Beck decided an open container restriction ordinance now is better. Beck believes the popular nightlife area is important to the Fort Worth community. 

She believes that the majority of young adults who visit the bars are law-abiding citizens and come to enjoy the weekend. 

"We believe is in large part a lot of underage folks that can't get into the establishments. And so, they mill around the area with open containers that they brought from another location," said Beck, "the West 7th district is one of the top producers in alcohol sales statewide pretty consistently."

She and the full council will vote on the ordinance restricting open containers at a city hall meeting on Nov. 8.

"We will take the vote on Tuesday per ordinances and state law. It has to be published in the Star-Telegram twice before it can go into effect," said Beck, "And so that's about eight to 10 days after we take the vote on Tuesday. I'm currently working with our police department, our internal communications department, and our partners at other agencies like TCU, to make sure that we are communicating to patrons that something has changed in the area."

Beck's goal is to also make sure that officers patrolling the bar district remain friendly, yet firm, about the change in policy. The open container violation will be a Class C misdemeanor, which can have a fine of up to $500.

Although the West 7th area is packed with thousands of partygoers on the weekend, the new ordinance will impact more than just the bar area. Beck's ordinance will include an area just north of the bar district, which is seeing a lot of development and would likely become another area of the city that will attract people to nightlife activities.

Beck said, "Just like being in the traditional bar district, it was just an effort to recognize that this is a potential future."

Emil Bragdon owns five of the 20 bars and welcomes the open container restrictions. His staff and other bar owners have bartenders, servers and security personnel trained to recognize when someone in their establishments had too much to drink.  

But, they cannot monitor what happens on the street outside their establishments. Bragdon believes the change will help with safety if nothing else.

Bragdon said, "Outside of the bars, we really can't do much. And that's been a lot of spawning of issues, of violent issues in the past."

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