Macon council panel OKs looser alcohol rules for Bragg Jam

Macon would allow concert-goers to carry alcohol into the streets of downtown during this year’s Bragg Jam music festival, according to an ordinance a committee of council members approved Monday.

The proposed law mimics a relaxing of rules that occurs on First Fridays, when drinking outdoors is allowed between 4 p.m. and 10 p.m. as part of an effort to lure people downtown. In the case of next month’s Bragg Jam, people will be allowed to drink or carry open containers of alcohol while outside between 5 p.m. and 2 a.m.

Drinkers may consume alcohol only from designated plastic cups and must wear approved wrist bands.

Bragg Jam, scheduled for July 25, is a local music festival held annually in memory of brothers Brax and Tate Bragg, who died 10 years ago in a car crash.

The brothers were active in the local music scene, and the festival is put on each year to raise money for the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail. Last year, the festival raised $45,000, its most successful showing ever.

The council’s Public Safety Committee approved the ordinance in a 4-1 vote. Most council members see the less-stringent regulation of alcohol as another way to help boost the event and downtown activity.

“I think it’s very important that we partner with them and show our support in this very small way,” said Councilwoman Nancy White, the committee’s vice chairwoman. “What we get back is huge in comparison.”

Councilman Lonnie Miley said the city needs fewer restrictions on drinking so that it remains progressive and more accessible to events such as Bragg Jam and First Friday.

“All of it ... is good for Macon, and it’s good for the citizens of Macon,” Miley said.

Councilman James Timley cast the only vote against the ordinance. He said it does not need to be codified.

Currently, nonprofit organizations such as Bragg Jam can ask the mayor for a special event permit, exempting them from laws that make it illegal to carry open containers of booze in the street.

Timley also said he is concerned that loosening the rules will make it difficult for police to maintain order.

Requirements that wrist-banded patrons drink only from designated cups have not been enforced on First Fridays, he said, leading to problems with people bringing in coolers of their own alcohol.

“It was pandemonium,” he said.

To contact writer Matt Barnwell, call 744-4251.