An entertainment district in which patrons would be able to tote alcoholic beverages in open containers along sidewalks and the Riverwalk is under consideration for downtown McHenry.
ShamROCKS the Fox, McHenry’s annual St. Patrick’s Day celebration, has been an “unintended test case” for creating the downtown dining and entertainment district, McHenry Parks and Recreation Director Bill Hobson said.
ShamROCKS showed that the city can host events during which open containers are allowed, which Hobson said has encouraged diners and revelers to check out more McHenry restaurants, bars and shops.
“There are these events with bands and tents, and people going wherever” to get drinks or dinner while open containers also were allowed, Hobson said.
Many of the downtown restaurants “have their own distinctive flavor. [Open-container] would allow [patrons] to experience more of that and not stay in one spot all day,” Hobson said. “That mobility lends to the success of the event.”
Based on the success of ShamROCKS, Hobson and McHenry Chief of Police John Birk will pitch a one-year pilot proposal to the McHenry City Council on Monday.
The city is using Cary’s social district ordinance as a template to create a similar setup in McHenry.
How would this open-container trial work?
- The dining and entertainment district proposal, if approved by the council, would allow “the regulated consumption of alcoholic beverages in public areas,” including sidewalks, Miller Point Park and the Riverwalk, according to city documents.
- The proposal would apply to McHenry’s downtown business district, including all of the Riverwalk, recently renovated Miller Point Park and Weber’s Park. Veteran’s Memorial Park on Pearl Street is not included.
- Open containers would be allowed on sidewalks on Riverside Drive from Weber’s Park to Miller Point Park, Park Street from Route 120 to Pearl Street, Pearl Street from Riverside Drive to Green Street, and Green Street from Pearl Street to Waukegan Road.
- The district also would include Main Street from Route 31 to the railroad tracks.
When would open containers be allowed in downtown McHenry, and with what restrictions?
- Open containers – with a two-drink-per-transaction limit – would be allowed from May 1 through Nov. 1 next year. If the program is approved and is successful, the City Council would need to reauthorize the ordinance by Dec. 31, 2024.
- The proposed dining and entertainment district would allow open containers from noon to 9 p.m. seven days a week. “We want them settled [in one location] by 9 p.m., not walking around late at night,” Hobson said.
- For at least the first year, only beer, wine and hard seltzers would be allowed, served in clear, plastic, 16-ounce cups carrying the bar and city logos.
Which bars and restaurants could participate?
- Bars and restaurants would need a Class A liquor license with a special, $300 annual alcohol endorsement to participate in the entertainment district.
- The bars also would need to sign off on waivers releasing the city from any liability and post clear signage outlying the regulations, among other requirements.
- Hobson said he’s already spoken to several bar and restaurant owners who are in favor of the plan. “We have approached a handful [of owners] at this point and have had some productive discussions. We are starting slow,” he said.
Creating a dining and entertainment zone based around the Riverwalk’s success wasn’t part of the original plan, Hobson said, but it came naturally.
McHenry’s Riverwalk started as an idea in 2000, and construction began about five years after that. Construction on its next section, connecting the Pearl Street bridge to the Route 120 bridge, could start in 2024, with utility relocation beginning first.
“When you have the Riverwalk, and see the investment in our community with bars and restaurants of all different flavors ... we want to continue to enhance that,” Hobson said.
The McHenry City Council meets at 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 2, at city hall, 333 S. Green St. No vote is expected, but the council is expected to weigh in on the plan.