Restaurant owners: Mercer tailgating in downtown Macon could boost business

hgoodridge@macon.comJuly 26, 2013 

Football and tailgating go hand-in-hand.

But that may not necessarily be the case if you’re talking about downtown Macon.

A couple of weeks ago, Macon City Council’s Public Safety Committee tabled a move by the mayor to encourage tailgating downtown. Mayor Robert Reichert proposed lifting the city’s open container law for Mercer University’s eight Saturday home football games this fall.

In a 4-1 vote to table the idea, committee members said they are concerned about security and who would clean up city streets.

Some downtown restaurant and bar owners are excited about the prospects of increased sales with the return of Mercer football after decades of dormancy, but they’re equally concerned that council members’ lack of action could hinder business.

“We’re missing the boat if we don’t do it,” said Wes Griffith, co-owner of the Rookery and Dovetail restaurants. “If there’s good street activity, we’ll open our Cherry Street bar out front (of the Rookery) and open our patio and get the game day spirit. I’m for tailgating if it’s typical grilling out and enjoying a beer and not getting cited for (an) open container.

“Lifting open container laws doesn’t mean the streets will be littered with drunks and trash,” Griffith added.

Cesare Mammarella, owner of Bearfoot Tavern, a favorite among Mercer students, said he doesn’t understand why there’s an issue.

“It’s a no-brainer,” he said about allowing tailgating, “(with) ... all of the residual effects it will have.”

Mammarella, who also owns three other downtown bars and restaurants, said he anticipates a bump in business during home football games.

“I don’t think it will be a huge influx, but any influx is good,” he said.

To not allow game-day tailgating downtown, “is moronic and idiotic,” Mammarella said.

Reichert proposed allowing open containers -- plastic cups or aluminum cans, but no glass bottles -- from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on home game days.

Keith Moffett, assistant to the city’s chief administrative officer, said the mayor’s office proposed the tailgating idea to help boost business downtown.

The proposed tailgating activities would take place next to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame in an effort to promote downtown to the thousands of alumni expected to visit Macon for the games.

The proposed tailgating district includes Stadium Drive leading to the football stadium -- the only city controlled street on Mercer’s campus -- and an area bounded by Ash, Fifth, Walnut and College streets, plus Tattnall Square Park.

Some of the Public Safety Committee members proposed the city asking Mercer to help foot the bill for increased security and public works downtown, but that’s not going to happen.

“It’s a city initiative. This is not a Mercer initiative,” Moffett said Friday.

“Right now, we don’t know (if the Public Works Department) is needed,” Moffett added. “We don’t know what the turnout would be.”

Councilman Virgil Watkins, chairman of the council’s Public Safety Committee, said he’s not opposed to the idea of allowing tailgating downtown, but he thinks the mayor’s office needs to provide more information.

“The logistics were not presented clearly,” Watkins said Friday. “The committee along with myself have a few questions concerning public works and the cleanup and how that is going to be addressed,” Watkins said Friday. “Our public works does not work on the weekend.”

Watkins said he is going to check back to see if the mayor’s office addressed the committee’s concerns. The matter will be discussed at its Aug. 12 meeting.

Watkins said he believes the matter will be resolved before the start of the season.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Harold Goodridge, call 744-4382.

The Telegraph is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service