Entertainment districts, also known as Outdoor Refreshment Areas or Open Container Districts, have existed in many states for decades but are relatively new in Wisconsin.
In many cases, a pivot to outdoor dining during the COVID-19 pandemic led to a need to think more broadly about the ordinances governing drinking and dining outdoors. To date, at least eight Wisconsin municipalities have created ordinances that allow open intoxicants in designated public spaces downtown, under specific circumstances. These ordinances vary greatly. Some use expanded picnic licensing parameters to allow events that incorporate alcohol to take place in the public right-of-way while others designate certain days or times when people can carry open intoxicants on the streets or sidewalks within a designated area. A recent webinar profiled several of these districts, explaining how they were established, outlining the economic benefits they have generated for their districts, and offering tips for other communities considering implementing similar measures.