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Business Intel: Downtown Roanoke's outdoor refreshment pilot extended

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Downtown Roanoke’s sip-and-shop pilot was a success, organizers announced, earning it a two-month extension so visitors can continue to stroll with their drinks.

The outdoor refreshment zone, which was first launched in June, allows folks to get beers or cocktails from downtown bars and enjoy them outside while exploring the market square area.

The zone is offered on weekends with hours that run from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Fridays to Sundays. Drinks must be poured in clearly marked cups, and can’t leave the zone’s designated boundaries around the market square.

The beverages can be taken into stores that allow them (just check for signs on a shop’s door) to let visitors sip while taking in all that the downtown district offers.

The portable drinks program was launched this summer as a fun and novel method of encouraging people to explore downtown.

It was organized under a Virginia ABC license granted to Downtown Roanoke Inc. The initial pilot was set to end in July but organizers announced that was being extended through the weekend of Sept. 25 due to the idea’s success.

“The feedback that we’ve heard has been good,” said Jaime Clark, of Downtown Roanoke Inc., adding getting more people milling about downtown helps both the bars and retailers.

“We always like to get people down here and walking around, seeing all the great businesses and the great shopping options that we have,” she said. “This is just a way to get people to come down and explore a little bit.”

No stats were tracked as to how many customers availed themselves of the zone but the comments heard were positive and no problems were reported, Clark added.

The ABC license will be expiring shortly after September but Downtown Roanoke Inc. is exploring options to renew it.

Fifteen bars and restaurants are currently taking part in the program. More information about the zone and how it works can be found online at

Contact Alicia Petska at

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Alicia Petska covers business and writes the Business Intel column. She can be reached at (540) 981-3319 or

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