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Monday, October 4, 2021

Ocala considering extending open-container law to businesses for downtown events

City officials are considering an open container bill that would allow downtown Ocala businesses to sell alcoholic beverages during designated events.

The matter will come before Ocala City Council during its regular meeting on Tuesday, October 5.

Currently, only a nonprofit organization may obtain a temporary permit from the City and State for sale of alcoholic beverages at outdoor events in Downtown Ocala.

Council members will vote on whether to approve consideration of a local bill by the Florida Legislature to create an exception to Florida Statute 561.01(11) and permit downtown businesses to sell alcohol “within the Downtown Ocala Event Zone for consumption off of the licensed premises.”

The bill would apply to businesses that are currently permitted to sell alcohol for on-premise consumption.

The proposed event zone would consist of approximately 34 blocks of downtown Ocala, including the downtown square, Citizens’ Circle, and the Ocala Downtown Marketplace. The bill would allow for alcoholic beverages to be sold during certain events hosted within the zone, so long as the zone for the event is approved via resolution with the city.

Ocala Downtown Event Zone

Each resolution would come before the Ocala City Council and organizers would be required to identify the type of event, event zone location, and alcoholic beverage establishments selling in the event zone.

According to city records, events with approved resolutions would require a police presence and all alcohol would have to be consumed in a special cup unique to the event.

City officials believe the proposed bill will create continued growth of Downtown Ocala by fostering partnerships between local businesses and event organizers. Without the bill, revenues for alcoholic beverage establishments will be continually impacted whenever the city must close down streets for events.

The Ocala City Council meets regularly on the first and third Tuesday of every month. For more information on this or other agenda items, visit the city of Ocala website.