FARGO - A proposed law to allow public drinking at some downtown events received preliminary approval from city leaders Monday night, May 21.

City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, who chairs the Liquor Control Board, said he considers it a "pilot project," having asked legal staff to include a sunset clause of Dec. 31. He said he understands some downtown businesses and residents have concerns and this allows the city to see if the idea will work.

The law creates a new liquor license issued only to the Downtown Community Partnership for vendors participating in the group's events. The group has said it wants to use the license for its Street Fair July 19 to 21 and, eventually, the Cork and Canvas art walk.

DCP Chairman Travis Koch said the group plans to use the license only for special events, not "pub crawls."

Commissioners voted 4-1 on the proposed law's first reading. Another vote in two weeks would put the law on the books.

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Commissioner Tony Gehrig, the lone dissenting vote, said the city should make the license available throughout the city, not just for downtown.

Mayor Tim Mahoney said the city could eventually allow public drinking at events in other parts of town but this is just a pilot.

In other news, the commission gave preliminary approval to an amendment that would make it easier for police to enforce a law forbidding bars and restaurants from serving people who are "obviously intoxicated." Currently a witness is needed to corroborate an officer's observation that someone is drunk, but Police Chief David Todd said few people are willing to do that. The new law would eliminate the required witness, which isn't a requirement for other laws.

Gehrig also asked the commission to seek a consultant to help the city untangle its convoluted liquor laws, which include more than 30 kinds of liquor licenses. His motion died for lack of a second.

Gehrig had earlier chaired a task force made up mostly of city regulators and existing liquor license holders, which proved unwilling to make major changes.