Push for Old Town to become an entertainment district

Published On: Apr 30 2014 09:32:30 PM CDT   Updated On: Apr 30 2014 10:29:34 PM CDT

Wichita's Old Town is often known for it's entertainment, but a new classification of "entertainment district" has more to do with keeping you safe.

"Whenever you have an area where you have more people per square foot, per square mile, working than is typical in any other neighborhood, just the sheer number of people that come and go from that area will attract some people who don't have the best intentions," said Jason Van Sickle, president of the Old Town Association.

He said the group has been working on this proposed ordinance for the last two years.

 "What this ordinance does is, you can't just hang out in the streets and get in big crowds and start having fights and those types of things," said Van Sickle. "When the restaurants and bars close down, it's time to go home. What this does is allows police to say, if we identify an individual that's standing outside of a club and has no intent on going in or out of the establishment and starts causing problems in the area, it gives us a reason to approach them, question them and if they start causing problems to get them out of the area."

That particular part of the ordinance has a time period involved, 11 p.m. to 3 a.m., when bars and clubs are closing for the night.

 If you don't go home or if you commit another crime, it could cost you. Van Sickle said the first offense would be $500, then $1,000 + jail time for a second offense. Most of the crimes will be enforced 24 hours a day.

"You're going to pay a stiff penalty if you're going to come to this area with the wrong intentions," he said.

Here's a list of the crimes that would be included in this ordinance:

  • Chapter 5.10 - Assault and Battery
  • Chapter 5.24 – Disorderly Conduct
  • Chapter 5.24 – Disorderly Conduct
  • Chapter 5.26 – Drug Offenses
  • Section 5.66.010 – Criminal Damage to Property
  • Section 5.66.050 – Criminal Trespass
  • Chapter 5.72 – Obstruction of Legal Duty
  • Chapter 5.88 – Unlawful Use of Weapon
  • Section 5.48.010 -Loitering
  • Section 3.30.075-Failure to Vacate Premises
  • Section 3.30.078-Loitering at Entertainment Establishments
  • Section 5.12.010-Tampering with an Automobile
  • Chapter 5.42-Larceny

"This is a way for us to stay ahead of that curve as we have more and more people come to Old Town," said Wichita City Councilwoman Janet Miller. "We don't have that problem now and we don't want to get there, so this is a way for us to be proactive."

The Wichita City Council will take a look at the proposed ordinance sometime in May.

"It seems hard to imagine there would be too much opposition to encouraging law breakers to stay out of the area," said Miller. "We can take a week or two to make some amendments if we need to do that, but on the other hand, if it looks like everybody's a go with it, we should be able to approve it and get it on the books."

The Old Town Association is hoping the ordinance will come into play by summer, late May or early June. 

"If doing illegal activity is important to you or of interest, please go somewhere else," said Miller. "That's the message we want to send. This is in no way going to be a detractor of having fun in Old Town. It's just the opposite. People who live and work and shop and dine downtown have asked us to look at this as a way to help keep Old Town the safe and enjoyable place it is today."

The Old Town Association started a task force about 6 months ago to help research how an entertainment district would work in Wichita. The group had help from Wichita Police Department and the City of Wichita drawing up possible plans for this ordinance. Van Sickle also said the ordinance has unanimous support from the Wichita Downtown Development Corporation.

The group has also researched other cities that have entertainment districts like Oklahoma City's "Brick Town" and Kansas City's "Plaza".

"There's no cost financially for this, it's really empowering the police department and the city with the tools that they need to really make sure this is a safe and exciting environment for everybody," said Van Sickle. "This really puts the cost squarely on people's shoulders that decide they don't want to what they are suppose to be doing because the only cost is the increased fines for breaking the law."