Wollongong's city streets could soon host food festivals, wine tastings or pop-up night markets after councillors agreed to allow up to 40 alcohol-related events to be held each year in alcohol-free zones.
Under an exemption, which was supported by councillors 9-2, up to 10 alcohol-friendly events will be allowed in each of four CBD areas - upper Crown Street Mall, the lower mall, Globe Lane and the Arts Precinct.
They also voted to allow up to two events to be held in other alcohol-free zones, which Cr Janice Kershaw said could pave the way for wine tastings and other such activities to be held during Spring into Corrimal or Dapto's street fair.
Most councillors agreed relaxing the prohibition zones would help to bring more people into the refurbished mall and city centre, saying it could lead to monthly night markets, a mini blues festival, a Vivid-style light show or pop-up outdoor bars being welcomed to Wollongong.
But Liberal councillor Michelle Blicavs said she could not support the plan as she believed all events held in the city needed to be "family friendly".
Greens councillor Jill Merrin said the alcohol exemptions should be limited to just 10 each year, as she was worried Wollongong could become like Kings Cross, where she previously lived.
"Having people swearing, breaking things, urinating in your doorway - creating a lot of problems, violence and injury - is not something I would wish on Wollongong," she said.
Cr Merrin's stance was supported by Greg Petty, who voted against the move to allow alcohol in the central business district as he was worried there could be an alcohol-related event held every nine days.
But Labor's David Brown dismissed these concerns, saying the exemptions were "not a green light for buckets of booze to be flowing down Crown Street".
"This is about having some options to have some quite well-maintained events, which would be regulated by the development application that covers them," he said.
Under the exemptions, event organisers would still have to go through the usual approvals process.
Like her colleague, Ann Martin said she would not be worried if Wollongong could attract an event every nine days, as it was "a grown-up city that can hold grown-up events".