Wristbands will allow festival-goers to take beers from bars into streets

Becky Campbell • Updated Aug 11, 2016 at 9:00 PM

Alcohol won’t be sold on the streets during the Little Chicago Downtown Johnson City Music & Arts Festival, but people will be allowed to take their beer out of bars if they buy a $4 wristband, festival organizers said.

“Beer will not be sold on the streets,” Wendy Graham, festival media director, said Thursday. “It will be available inside any establishment that has a license to sell it.”

Graham and others said the purpose of Little Chicago is to get people downtown, into downtown businesses and to reconnect to downtown. The free festival will offer arts and musical entertainment including contemporary bluegrass, indie rock, honky-tonk and  Americana.

The two-day festival runs 11 a.m.until 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, but alcohol will not be allowed on the street after 10:30 p.m., Graham said.

“The last drink has to be served by 10:30 p.m., and no beer will be allowed on the street or sidewalk after that,” she said, adding that the purpose of the festival isn’t focused on alcohol sales, but free fun and entertainment for everyone.

“It’s a family fun zone,” Graham said. “We decided to not sell alcohol on the street. The whole purpose is to get people to reconnect to downtown.”

Attendees who want to take alcohol outside must buy a wristband for each day of the event.

“Basically it’s just like any festival down here before,” said Tomi Breese, owner of Capone’s and co-organizer of Little Chicago. “You have to have a wristband to drink in the streets. You have to purchase beer in the establishments and can only take beer outside until 10:30 p.m.”

Graham and Breese said even with a wristband purchase, patrons re-entering a bar will be carded again.

“All beer establishments will be checking IDs,” Graham said. “When someone goes into another establishment, they will be ID’d again.”

Graham said the festival planning process included, and was a collaboration with, the Johnson City Police Department.

JCPD Sgt. Terry Hardin, who is part of the community policing unit, said the festival will be fully staffed with officers for the entire duration. Since Little Chicago is a new festival, staffing was based on prior events.

“We’re basing our staffing on past events downtown,” Hardin said. “We’ll have a strong presence. We’ll have officers on foot and bike, and we’ll  have a command post set up at the corner of Buffalo and Market Street.”

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