Five Points South may soon become Birmingham’s next Entertainment District. What does this mean?
On November 19, the Five Points Alliance presented its application for an Entertainment District to Birmingham’s Public Safety Committee. The application was recommended by Public Safety and moved to the City Council agenda for November 26. A public hearing is set for December 17.
We spoke with John Boone, Vice President of the Five Points Alliance, who told us more about the District.
What is the Five Points Alliance?
“The Five Points Alliance is a board of community stakeholders who took the original Five Points Merchant Group from the 2000s and expanded it to include members of the Neighborhood Association, UAB, and local non-profit and faith organizations.
Our volunteer board represents a diverse mix of people from restaurants, bars, retail, education, real estate, technology, marketing, law, etc. We work tirelessly to host events and increase awareness of the neighborhood’s history, culture, and growth.”
What’s an Entertainment District?
“Municipalities are allowed to establish up to five Entertainment Districts, which are sponsored by a local community development organization (in our case, The Alliance). The law speaks to a lot of things, but the open-container aspect is the fun part.
There are currently two of these in Birmingham: Uptown and Pepper Place. This will be the first one in a neighborhood setting. In fact, the front door to my apartment is a few feet from the District boundary.
The Five Points South Neighborhood Association has been very supportive of the work The Alliance is doing, and that includes the Entertainment District in the 20th Street business core.”
What are the benefits of an Entertainment District designation?
“While having an open container district on nights and weekends will make barhopping more fluid in Five Points South, the real value to The Alliance is the new flexibility in planning events. St. Patrick’s Day in Five Points South is a huge celebration every year. Thousands of people line 20th Street for the parade and bounce around to various shows and parties throughout the day.
Now everyone will be able to take their drinks with them. We’ll also be able to host other big events like Taste of Five Points and the Storyteller Festival, and create new events without having to go through special ABC licensing each time.”
Why is this designation important to Five Points South?
“Five Points South once had a monopoly on nightlife in the city. A healthy mix of music venues, bars, and restaurants all within a short walk from each other created a reliable entertainment experience. There was always something for everyone in Five Points South, but when other parts of town adopted Five Points South’s identities, the monopoly ended.
The club scene moved to Lakeview, new anchor venues popped up in Avondale, a “cocktail trail” was born downtown, etc. As Five Points continues to pull some of that identity back, it will benefit from the formal distinction as an Entertainment District.”
What area will the District cover?
“The District boundaries will generally stretch along 20th Street from 10th Ave. S. (The Woolworth) to 13th Ave. S. (Ocean), with a few branches to include active parts of 11th and 12th Avenues.
Within the District boundaries are about 30 qualifying liquor licenses that will be eligible for participation, by far the most of any existing or proposed Entertainment District in the state. There will be clearly marked signage at the District entrances/exits (e.g., sidewalks, alleys, etc.), just so people know to finish their drinks before leaving and to not bring any outside alcohol into the District.”
If approved, when would the District go into effect?
“The District would go into effect immediately, but we’d take a little time effectively rolling it out. Our goal is to have everything operational by St. Patrick’s Day.”
What are the Alliance’s plans for safety and cleanliness?
“The Birmingham Police Department retains ultimate authority over security. They already have a strong presence in the area. The South Precinct is only a block away, and there’s already a daily walking patrol through Five Points South to keep an eye on things.
The Five Points South Entertainment District is a very safe place to be, mainly because of all the pedestrian activity on a busy, well-lit 20th Street. In terms of cleanliness, we’ll have extra bins at the entrances/exits of the District, so that people will clearly know where to deposit their cups.”
“An Alliance subcommittee will create a cup program. The Alliance, as the sponsoring entity, will be responsible for designing, distributing, and managing the official cups to be used by all participating businesses.
The businesses will then be required to follow strict protocols around distribution to patrons, so that we will be able to know the origin of every cup in our District and understand how they’re being used. This will provide us with valuable business intelligence data and allow us to ensure safe operation of the District by avoiding patrons bringing in their own cups with outside alcohol.”
“I can’t talk enough about how much I love my neighborhood. It’s a weird, groovy place, so I’m always surprised when I meet people who don’t enjoy it. I think aversion to Five Points South is a secret fear of its authenticity.
There are three dozen restaurants and bars on about seven blocks and they’re always active. It’s a 24 hour district. Marty’s is closing as OPH opens. Waffle House never closes. An allegedly satanic fountain sits in front of a church, and a James Beard award-winning restaurant shares a property line with Chick-Fil-A.
You couldn’t make this place up in a book, it’d be too unbelievable. It was the original Birmingham neighborhood, the end of the trolley line connecting the commercial center with the people living on Red Mountain to escape the valley smog. The Entertainment District will hopefully encourage others to come enjoy Five Points as much as I do, with a drink in hand.”
What do you think about a Five Points South Entertainment District? Let us know @BhamNow.