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OUR VIEW: Vote yes for outdoor wine

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opinion Mitchell,South Dakota 57301
The Daily Republic
OUR VIEW: Vote yes for outdoor wine
Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

Sioux Falls has a great downtown, but it wasn't always that way.

One of the sparks that ignited the rebirth of downtown Sioux Falls was outdoor dining, and a major factor supporting the viability of outdoor dining is the opportunity to have an alcoholic drink with a meal.

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Why? Because downtowns are no longer places many people go to conduct daily business during their workday. That may have been the case 30 years ago, but it's not anymore. The traditional retailers and many of the service providers that once populated downtown districts have moved to the edges of cities near major highways and interstates.

Today, downtowns are places people go to have unique shopping and dining experiences during their leisure time — lunches, dinners, nights out and weekends. During those leisure times, some people want to relax and have a drink.

If they can do that downtown, it makes the downtown area more attractive. Restaurant-goers can have a leisurely meal and beverage and then wander the downtown area. In Sioux Falls, that wandering might include window shopping, actual shopping, listening to an outdoor music performance, buying an ice cream cone, viewing sculptures or stopping for an after-dinner drink at a bar.

It all builds on itself: The outdoor music and sculptures and other unique facets of downtown Sioux Falls would not be there without the foot traffic; the foot traffic would be diminished if downtown Sioux Falls was not such a good place to eat; the eateries would be less attractive without options for outdoor dining; and the outdoor dining would be less attractive without the availability of alcohol.

Non-downtown restaurants might have great food and outdoor dining with alcohol available, but if they're near a highway, interstate or even a busy urban artery, they can't provide the historic and intimate ambience of a downtown district. People want to enjoy that aspect of downtown, and a great way to do that is outdoors with a meal and a drink.

Meanwhile, in downtown Mitchell, there isn't much foot traffic. That's partly because there isn't much outdoor dining. One reason there isn't much outdoor dining is because what's legal in Sioux Falls — alcohol service at a sidewalk cafe — is against the law in Mitchell.

Tuesday, Mitchell voters will decide whether to allow wine service (not beer or hard liquor) downtown at "sidewalk cafes" — a term that simply means outdoor tables and chairs on a sidewalk next to a restaurant.

The ordinance would not expand the availability of alcohol, as some critics say. It would simply allow wine-licensed restaurants downtown to serve wine at outdoor tables.

Neither is the ordinance an affront to impressionable children, as some critics claim. Downtown Mitchell is already a place people get drunk in bars. Outdoor wine service would show that alcohol can be consumed in moderation as a complement to a meal.

Lastly, the ordinance would not create dangerous obstructions on sidewalks, which is another criticism against it. We trust the pedestrians of Mitchell will somehow manage to maneuver around a few tables and chairs.

There's really only one thing this ordinance would do. It would move some downtown wine drinkers from the indoor side of a restaurant wall to the outdoor side of the wall. And that simple shift could be a big lift for a downtown that desperately needs it.

If you're a Mitchell resident, your polling place is Gertie Belle Rogers Elementary or L.B. Williams Elementary. If you don't know which it is, inquire with the Davison County Auditor's Office.

On Tuesday, vote yes to permit outdoor wine service in downtown Mitchell.