Downtown Raleigh was a ghost town in the 80s and 90s. But over the past decade, a bustling nightlife in the area has developed, with more businesses and more patrons than ever before. For some downtown residents, that’s a double-edged sword as they now have to contend with loud, obnoxious drunks reveling in the wee hours of the morning.

The result? A number of complaints that has resulted in the City Council targeting sidewalk use in the early morning hours. Under the new ordinance which went into effect last Friday (and passed on a 5-3 vote), businesses that offer outdoor seating on sidewalks will have to have their customers either go indoors or go somewhere else after 1 AM.

The rationale is that in addition to the noise, the sidewalks have gotten way too crowded. Frustrated, and possibly inebriated, pedestrians will have to wander off into the street, where they might get hit by cars. (Another ordinance that passed? No left turns at certain intersections during nighttime on the weekend.)

Naturally, this has resulted in an outcry from business owners, who are wondering why after so much energy has been invested into promoting downtown, the City Council is now trying to stifle progress. It’s especially rich considering that municipal governments have been complaining about overreach by the legislature and now they’re essentially giving adults a curfew.

Nobody is really sure if the new ordinances will help, and some argue that it might make matters worse by having two “last call” hours, resulting in even more noise and traffic. The Council plans to revisit the matter after the October elections.

Opponents of the new laws hope that by that time, several Council members will be replaced by folks who are more “pro-growth.” Some business owners are even undertaking voter registration campaigns. Normally, municipal elections elicit a huge yawn from just about everyone, but young people especially. So, don’t be surprised if it’s same-old, same-old in a few months.

But, if there’s any way to get millennials to turn out in these local elections, it’s to restrict the places where they can hang out on the weekends. Perhaps some surprises will be in order after all.


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