Politics & Government

Want to party in a parking garage? Wichita City Hall is making that easier

A change in Wichita city ordinance has cleared the way for alcohol in public garages, including Saturday's LevelUP celebration of the city's 148th birthday to be held in this parking garage on Market Street.
A change in Wichita city ordinance has cleared the way for alcohol in public garages, including Saturday's LevelUP celebration of the city's 148th birthday to be held in this parking garage on Market Street. File photo

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story contained an incorrect date for the ICT Level Up event. 

Responding to the wishes of event organizers and bar owners, the Wichita City Council has declared all downtown public parking lots and garages open to alcohol.

But don't just pull into any old parking space and crack open that can of Natty Light that's been rolling around the glove compartment.

Alas, parking lot drinking will be allowed only during special events with city permits, barricades and security.

The immediate effect of Tuesday's decision is that it clears the way for the "ICT LevelUP" event, planned for the former Macy's parking garage at 215 S. Market, said John D'Angelo, the city's director of arts and cultural services.

That July 21 event is pegged to Wichita's 148th birthday and plans to fill the nine-story garage with food vendors, artisans, musicians and other activities — including beer drinking.

Long term, the change will mean that bar owners and event organizers will find it much easier to move drinking activities outdoors into parking areas around their businesses.

State law generally bars outdoor drinking on public property unless the city or county specifically allows it by ordinance.

"Unless it's exempt (from state law), they can't do it," D'Angelo said.

For example, two years ago, the city had to pass an emergency ordinance to let Mort's Martini and Cigar Bar use the parking lot outside the business for its 20th anniversary celebration.

The city has a list of parking areas that are already allowed to host alcohol-serving events, including the grounds of the Advanced Learning Library, Botanica, Lawrence-Dumont Stadium and the Wichita Art Museum.

The change made Tuesday expands that anti-prohibition to essentially blanket the entire downtown area.

Boundaries of the new drinking zone are Seneca on the west, Hillside on the east, Central on the north and Kellogg on the south.

Brittany Wahlers shows you inside an apartment at the Broadway Autopark. The converted parking garage in downtown Wichita has 44 units. Matt

Dion Lefler; 316-268-6527, @DionKansas
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