Columbus To Allow Public Alcohol Downtown; More Violent Crime Likely To Follow
Columbus officials are planning an open container “entertainment district” within the downtown area while crime rates are already at record highs, despite numerous official studies linking alcohol to increased violent crime.
An artistic expression of the newly-proposed “entertainment district” in the downtown area of Columbus, Ga. The city recently announced its recommendation to allow the public consumption of alcohol within the proposed district to allow a single “”tourism” business to operate.
Image Credit:
Muscogee Muckraker

Residents can voice their opinions on how the newly-proposed entertainment district will statistically increase the city’s homicide rate by contacting their city council members.

Columbus city officials are moving to establish a new “entertainment district” in the downtown area to allow the public consumption of alcohol on city streets within certain guidelines, despite seventy years of scientific data showing that policies encouraging alcohol consumption result in higher rates of homicide and violent crime.

The proposed entertainment district would allow for the open consumption of alcohol in approved containers throughout city streets, within the bounds of 9th Street to 14th Street, between Broadway and Bay Avenue, during the hours of 11 a.m. and 11 p.m. The RiverWalk and all bridges were explicitly excluded from the proposed district.

The move comes in response to a “tourism” franchise called “Pedal Pub” requesting the city alter its laws so their patrons can consume alcoholic beverages as they ride down public streets on the company’s unlicensed motorized vehicles

According to numerous scientific studies, there is a direct link between the alcohol consumption rate of a population and its rates of homicide and violent crime. 

One such study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) — which aggregated 72 years worth of data from U.S. states — showed that a one-liter increase per capita of alcohol consumption is associated with a 9% increase in the U.S. homicide rate. Another similar study also published by the NIH — which used 73 years worth of aggregated data — found the same results in Australia; a one-liter increase per capita of alcohol consumption was associated with an 8% increase in homicide. 

The aforementioned studies are just two of dozens that are openly published on the subject; all studies examined by the Muckraker have revealed the same conclusive findings.

In short: more than seven decades of worldwide data clearly show that encouraging a population to consume more alcohol will lead to increased rates of homicide. The overwhelmingly-corroborated results have since brought much clarity to the scientific community on the subject, making it fairly well understood throughout the world that an increase in alcohol consumption has a direct association with increased homicide rates.

To put that into perspective: If Columbus establishments sold just one more liter of beer to each of its roughly 205,000 residents, the homicide rate would statistically be expected to increase by 9%. For further context: if that had occurred in 2021, the city would have statistically experienced 76 homicides instead of the 70 it actually experienced; 6.3 more people would have been killed. 

However, Columbus officials are moving to encourage the open consumption of alcohol throughout the downtown area in what deputy city manager Pam Hodge called a “response to a request … to allow Pedal Pub to have alcohol.” 

The move to accommodate the single business’s operation comes as the city is already experiencing record-high crime rates. The city of Columbus has experienced no less than 35 homicides so far this year, and an unprecedented 70 homicides in 2021 at a rate of more than 34 per hundred-thousand residents — five times the national average. While homicides themselves have so far decreased in 2022, the number of shooting incidents as a whole has already sharply increased.  

During the city attorney’s section of the Columbus city council meeting on October 11, 2022, city attorney Clifton Fay called on deputy city manager Pam Hodge to discuss the city’s plan for the new alcohol-centric entertainment district.

Hodge left no doubt that the city’s plans were a direct response to Pedal Pub’s request for the city to alter its laws so the single business could operate, despite the plethora of scientific data showing how it will likely nudge the homicide rate to increase :

“This is in response to a request from Mr. Darby who was here on the public agenda from Pedal Pub, and also from councilor Woodson (District 7) to bring forward an ordinance to allow Pedal Pub to have alcohol on the Pedal Pub as they’re giving their tours in the uptown area,” Hodge said in her opening statement. 

Hodge, who was speaking on behalf of the city’s finance, planning, and development offices, then went on to give the city’s recommendations on how it can alter its laws to accommodate Pedal Pub’s alcohol-laden motor vehicles on the city’s functional streets:

“Our recommendation coming back is to establish an entertainment district for the Pedal Pub to operate, so that is what we’re bringing forward. I’ve had a brief conversation with Ed Wolverton (the President & CEO of) Uptown about this, and this is something we’ve been discussing with them from about 2018 — and it was kind of pulled off the table, but, as we met internally with the police department, the city attorney’s office, the finance department, and the city manager’s office, this is our recommendation on how to allow this particular business to operate in the Uptown area and to have alcohol on the Pedal Pub.”

It is important to remember that this massive, expensive, and liability-heavy legislative undertaking — that will statistically increase the local homicide rate — is all in response to a request from a single business whose maximum tax revenue potential would not even be large enough to cover the potential lawsuits that may result from its operation. 

Hodge continued, explaining the details of the city’s recommended plan:

“So what we have brought forward today is a response to that request from Councilor Woodson, which is an ordinance to amend Chapter 3 (of the Columbus Code of Ordinances) to allow for, what we’re calling, a “tour service vehicle,” and also to establish a particular boundary for the Uptown area as an “entertainment district.” 

The elaborate legal procedure to alter the city’s laws appears to surround the nature of Pedal Pub’s vehicles. Though the company claims they operate “bicycles,” the four-wheeled motorized vehicles do not meet Georgia’s legal definition. Local officials now appear to be snaking around state law by calling the Pedal Pub cars “tour service vehicles” instead — though they would still meet Georgia’s definition of a motor vehicle and would likely still be subjected to all applicable state laws anyway. The oversight could potentially open the door for any arising vehicular accidents to be considered gross negligence at the hands of the city due to its willful and deliberate action ignoring state laws; Pedal Pub itself would likely be held harmless, as it sought guidance from the city.

Hodge then went on to discuss how the entertainment district’s plan is intended to grow and spread to other parts of the city as well:

“We have had requests from other areas to establish this same sort of district — that there would be open container(s), basically,  within a particular boundary — and so this would allow council to establish additional districts in addition to the one that we’re proposing today.”

Hodge then mentioned the city intends to have a public meeting so the city can consult with Uptown Columbus, Inc., but ironically did not mention discussing the issue with the actual public of Columbus:

“I know there’s been some discussion. We would like to have a public meeting with the merchants and Uptown. I spoke with councilor Woodson yesterday (October 10) about that — so a request to delay this, I believe, will be coming so that we can have a public meeting to discuss with Uptown; we don’t want them to think we’re trying to ‘sneak this one in,’ but we did want to respond to councilor Woodson and her request, and this is our recommendation for that.”

Hodge then expanded more on how the plan is intended to spread to other areas of the city:

“We do see that this district could expand over time. This is kind of a trial run for Columbus, as far as an entertainment district goes. We have had two other requests for this same type of entertainment district — so this does provide that mechanism to do that.”

Hodge then clarified that the proposed district would allow all pedestrians to consume alcoholic beverages throughout the streets within the bounds of the district and the confines of its proposed ordinance, stating that Uptown Columbus, Inc. — a nonprofit organization partnered heavily with the city — would have the final say on how the city’s laws will operate regarding the physical open containers themselves:

“It would allow the Pedal Pub to operate within that district, and allow individuals to bring this open container, this ‘special cup,’ whether it’s a sticker or a specialty cup — that would be at the decision of Uptown (for) how that would operate.”

The stunning statement appeared to say the quiet part out loud: that Uptown Columbus, Inc. has an almost oligarchical-like influence over how local laws are formed, enacted, and enforced to suit their own independent and private needs. Hodge’s follow-on statement appeared to corroborate this otherwise-obvious deduction.

After reiterating the geographic boundaries of the proposed district, Hodge singularly mentioned getting the support of local residents for the new ordinance:

“Again, we want to have a public meeting to get input from the business owners and the residents of uptown on their support for this ordinance and to hear their comments.”

It seems important to point out that Hodge’s comment was worded in a candid way that only sought to garner support for the  newly-proposed district and law change, but was tellingly not worded to include the possibility of residents opposing it. 

You can watch the entire presentation made during the council meeting through the video below. The presentation begins at the 2:14:35-mark of the video.

Residents can voice their opinions on how the newly-proposed entertainment district will statistically increase the city’s homicide rate by contacting their city council members.

Facts are stubborn things — and we’ll keep publishing them, whether city officials like them or not.


© 2022 Muscogee Muckraker. All rights reserved.

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