Between its many bars, restaurants and lively music scene, Athens has long enjoyed a thriving downtown area. The Athens-Clarke County government, however, is taking a look at what it can do to ensure this important aspect of the city is kept safe and enjoyable.
The Athens-Clarke County Commission has announced that it will commission a study on health and safety issues in downtown Athens this fall, the Red and Black reports.
The assessment will examine a laundry list of issues, including DUI’s, underage drinking, and overcrowding, and determine the best solutions to fix them.
According to commissioner Melissa Link, weekend foot traffic in downtown Athens, especially when the bars close at 2 a.m., is a growing concern. One of the duties of the study, she says, is to look at the possibility of widening the sidewalks to accommodate more people.
Also, current traffic routes, such as Clayton Street’s one-way flow, may receive second looks.
Besides physical changes to downtown, the study is aimed to address alcohol-related problems, namely the crime that comes with it.
Driving under the influence, underage drinking, and physical altercations are all prevalent in Athens, especially amongst the student population at the University of Georgia.
Link says that, depending on the results of the study, solutions to those issues could come in either new laws or altered business practices.
“What we can do is encourage safe environments and set some parameters for the amount of alcohol that’s consumed, or encourage local businesses to be responsible in how they dole out alcohol,” she said.
The health and safety study will also focus on reports of discrimination in downtown bars, an issue that is currently being addressed elsewhere.
The Athens-Clarke County government is set to vote Sept. 6 on an anti-discrimination ordinance, which holds local businesses accountable for practices that are used to exclude minorities, such as dress code and private parties.
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