City commissioners authorize Common Consumption Area


Tiger Media Network

The Hays City Commission recently established a Common Consumption Area (CCA) in downtown Hays. This will allow individuals purchasing alcoholic beverages to leave the establishment with their drink and walk around within the designated boundaries. 

Deputy City Manager Collin Bielser said state laws used to require streets in a CCA to be blocked from traffic, but new legislation now only requires signs and painted lines marking the boundaries of the area.

“Past commissions have actually talked about implementing a common consumption area,” Bielser said. “This isn’t a new thing for them to talk about, but when the change in legislation happened, it became a topic of conversation again.”

The commission hopes passing of the CCA will bring more people to the downtown area.

“To me, it is an enhancement of what we’ve continued to try to do for the last 22 years in our downtown and that is to continue to make it a point of destination to bring more people to our town, to drive more sales tax, which is how we run our city,” Vice Mayor Sandy Jacobs said.

The commission looked at two possible areas. The first option included Seventh through 13th Streets from Oak to Fort. 

The second option added an additional “chimney”, extending Ninth and 10th Streets to Ash.

“There were some establishments a block away that some of the commissioners thought we could draw down there at least,” Bielser said. “We did want to avoid residential areas as much as possible.” 

The commission unanimously approved Option 2. 

Option 2 includes many Hays bars including Toby Jugs, Defiance Brewing Co., The Brass Rail and Sip N Spin. Notably, Chuck’s and On The Rocks were not included in the CCA. 

Tony Taylor, owner of On The Rocks, said in a statement his main concern is patrons will get used to taking drinks out of establishments and then will try to do the same at his place. 

“Once the city chose to not include us, the city council created an environment that puts us, Chuck’s and OTR, at a higher risk of potential tickets and a possibility of eventually losing our licenses,” Tony said. 

The city is liable for infractions within the CCA, but outside of the CCA, the responsibility falls to the establishment. Taylor said these fines carry penalties ranging from $250 to $1,000. 

Owner of Chuck’s, Chuck Taylor, said this puts Chuck’s and OTR on a different playing field. 

“The way it works now, all the customers know you can’t go outside with your drink and every bar enforces that rule,” he said. “Now we’re just out on our own and the rest of the bars can just put cups by the door and people can walk out with their drink.”

To include Chuck’s and OTR, the CCA would need to pass through residential areas, something the commission was trying to avoid. 

“If we make that part of the Common Consumption Area, now we’re responsible for college kids’ parties,” commissioner Reece Barrick said. 

Jacobs said she was comfortable with the way the current boundaries were set up. 

“We can’t get every bar in the area,” Jacobs said. “There has to be a line of demarcation somewhere.” 

An alternative solution would be to individually designate certain days where alcohol could be consumed in a public area. So instead of a year-round CCA, this would only apply to certain days for certain events. 

“That would probably be a more fair situation,” Chuck Taylor said. “That way, people can do that on these certain event days and it wouldn’t mess us up so much over here. People would recognize it as a special event and would not get used to it being the norm.” 

Mayor Shaun Musil believed only designating certain days would cause more confusion.

“I think if we do it that way, I think it’s harder on our employees, it’s confusion for the customers because today you can, tomorrow you can’t,” Musil said. 

Overall, Taylor is disappointed with the lack of communication surrounding the situation. He was unaware the city was even discussing a CCA until Tony Taylor told him about it. 

“It feels like we were blindsided by this,” Chuck Taylor said. “We weren’t notified or anything like that. I don’t know how many liquor licenses there are downtown, but it would’ve been nice if they sent out a questionnaire or got some input.” 

Both Taylors did attend the last commission meeting, but Chuck Taylor believed commissioners may have been able to negotiate a compromise more effectively if they had been brought in earlier in the process. 

“They didn’t care at that point because we showed up right before they were going to make the ruling,” he said.

Since the decision, Chuck Taylor said he has received messages of support from community members.

“A lot of them are on the same page as us,” he said. “It’s nice to know some of them recognize that this is kind of messed up.”

In a year, the city will have the opportunity to amend the boundaries of the CCA and Chuck Taylor hopes those boundaries can be adapted to include Chuck’s and OTR. 

“We’ll just have to see how that goes,” Chuck Taylor said. “So for now, we just keep moving forward.”

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