The rules of engagement for drinking at events in downtown Reno have changed, starting with the 2011 events season. Here is a summary of the new policies and why the changes are being implemented.
What Has Changed?
The ban on open containers on public streets has not changed. It is still illegal to drink in public areas of Reno and the police are still diligent about enforcement. What has changed is the economy and the need to revitalize the events that bring people (both locals and visitors) to party and spend in downtown Reno. To that end, the city and the four big downtown casinos (Eldorado, Harrah's, Silver Legacy, and Circus Circus) have agreed to a modification of the permitting process that defines "beer garden" during events that take over the streets (Hot August Nights being the prime example). This comes as new events are being started and existing ones are being expanded. The hope is to create friendlier atmosphere for event goers and make Reno a more attractive destination to visitors. To that end, here are some of the policies now being followed...
- Entire event areas will be permitted as "beer gardens" with drinking allowed throughout. For example, if you want to walk down Virginia Street during Hot August Nights and look at the cars with beer in hand, go for it.
- As a condition for the modified permits, the casinos will provide the bulk of the security. Private officers from the casinos will patrol events and be responsible for maintaining order. However, should law enforcement issues arise, the real police will be called in. The police will no longer be telling people get rid of their beers, but this is not carte blanche for rowdy behavior - responsible alcohol consumption and civil behavior are still required.
- If the police have to work overtime dealing with major problems, the casinos will foot the bill.
History of the Issue
Following an alcohol-fueled riot during Hot August Nights in 1998, Reno clamped down on the sale and consumption of alcohol during subsequent Hot August Nights weeks and other downtown Reno events that draw big crowds. Restricted "beer garden" areas were established and it was illegal to be drinking anywhere else on the streets. The Reno Police stepped up their presence at events and weren't shy about making sure drinking stayed inside designated places. Enforcement authority came from Reno's ordinance banning open containers on city streets.