Vail changing outdoor drinking rules and outdoor noise limits
‘Entertainment districts’ will replace ’common consumption’ areas
The summer of 2020 was a busy one in Vail, thanks in part to guests’ ability to wander around big areas of the resort villages with adult beverages in hand. That’s going to change this year.
The “common consumption” areas Vail used last year were the result of an executive order from Gov. Jared Polis in order to allow restaurants and bars to move outdoors with more of their business. Despite almost universal praise from locals, Polis’ order is set to expire July 1, and indications are it won’t be renewed.
As a kind of replacement, the Vail Town Council on Tuesday passed enabling legislation allowing businesses to create “entertainment districts” that allow some wandering with drinks in hand.
Mayor Dave Chapin, a minority partner in Vendetta’s restaurant in Vail Village, noted that the new rules won’t allow bars and restaurants to do business the same way they did in the summer of 2020.
“A lot of that is out of our control,” Chapin said, adding that the Colorado Department of Revenue handles most of the state’s liquor laws.
There are a couple of significant differences between the executive order and entertainment districts.
Districts are trickier
The primary difference is how the districts are created. State law requires businesses to band together to create those districts, then come to a town or county government for approval.
The other, potentially more troublesome difference is that state law doesn’t allow those districts to be in places with vehicular traffic.
That means much of Vail Village, particularly Meadow Drive, can’t have entertainment districts unless alcohol service is limited to hours when there’s no vehicular traffic.
Lionshead won’t be affected nearly as much by that rule.
State law also requires entertainment districts to carry liability insurance and provide security for those zones.
Vail Town Clerk Tammy Nagel, whose office handles liquor licensing in town, said she had talked with a number of towns across the state, as well as Beaver Creek, which has an entertainment district in place.
Vail Town Attorney Matt Mire noted that some business owners have experience operating in entertainment districts.
Nagel said Brian Nolan, whose company owns the Blue Moose Pizza locations in Vail and Beaver Creek, has been helping with Vail’s efforts to create entertainment districts.
Vail resident Mark Gordon urged the town to lobby Polis and the area’s state legislators — Sen. Kerry Donovan and Rep. Dylan Roberts — to either change current law or extend the executive order.
The new noise ordinance
Gordon stayed in Tuesday’s virtual meeting to comment on changes to Vail’s noise ordinances.
Responding to more in-village entertainment last summer, town officials proposed adjusting maximum allowed volume in the resort villages.
Under an ordinance passed on first reading Tuesday, Vail will now allow noise levels of 80 decibels between 2 and 8 p.m. The current limit is 65 decibels.
Vail Town Manager Scott Robson said the new limits are in line with those imposed by other resort towns, including Aspen.
Gordon, whose office is in the Christiania hotel, said there were times last summer when it was too noisy to work in that office even with the door and windows shut.
“It’s a very thorny issue,” Gordon said, adding that hours-long performances in the middle of the village with just a couple of breaks subjects everyone in the street to that music.
Sitzmark Lodge general manager Jeanne Fritch said comparing Vail to other towns may not be fair, given how narrow the streets are, particularly in Vail Village.
Fritch said she’s worried that a couple of performances at the same time in the village could create a “cacophony” for those in between those perfrmances.
Council member Jenn Bruno noted there’s a difference between a special event and more common performances around the villages.
If there are people complaining, we need to be responsive,” Bruno said.
Council member Jen Mason said she views the new ordinance as a trial, and Robson added that town staff will report back to the council in the summer about how the new ordinance is working.
Vail’s new noise ordinance allows maximum volume of 80 decibels between 2 and 8 p.m.
According to a chart from pulsarinstruments.com, that noise level is equivalent to heavy traffic or a noisy restaurant.
In comparison, 60 decibels is the equivalent of normal conversation, and 100 decibels is equivalent to the sound from a hand-held drill.