SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – An updated pilot program temporarily expanding Savannah’s Open Container Zone to parts of Forsyth Park and the Thomas Square and Victorian neighborhoods is getting good reviews from community members. On month ago, Savannah City Council members voted nearly unanimously to implement it.
“It gives an opportunity for the locals to enjoy what the tourists get to enjoy because a lot of locals — let’s face it — aren’t going downtown as much,” said Chaz Ortiz, the owner of Chazito’s on Bull Street. Ortiz opened his business for the first time Friday after closing down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Ortiz says his new business is already benefiting from the program.
“There was an invisible line before and now it’s open,” he said.
Chazito’s — located along the city’s Bull Street corridor — is one of many businesses included in the new zone. The pilot program is in effect until September 25th, at which point council members will use data and community feedback to decide whether to make the expansion permanent.
“The main thrust of why we were doing this is specifically to look at providing some relief to some for the restaurants and establishments along the Bull Street Corridor to allow for more social distancing,” said Bridget Lidy, the director of Planning and Urban Design.
Just recently, Lidy says the city started working with a professional who is trained to prevent alcohol and drug use among young people. She will provide input on the program to make sure it is not negatively affecting the city’s youth population.
The city is also working with police, code compliance, sanitation departments, and more to determine how the program if affecting the community. So far, Lidy says there have been no issues or complaints.
In June, city council members expressed concerns about spikes in crime and litter. Lidy says neither has been a problem so far.
“We are constantly evaluating and making sure we don’t see any problems,” she said. If there is a problem, the city manager can immediately halt the program.
District 2 Alderman Detric Leggett represents part of the expanded zone. He says he has not gotten any negative feedback.
“We just don’t ever want to make a decision on our own, thinking that we know everything. It’s primarily on the community…we want to see what feedback we can get from them and how we can service the community,” he said.