Discussion during a March 22 work session of Elizabethtown City Council centered on potential expanded alcohol sales at Freeman Lake Park.
Councilman Matt Deneen asked the council to consider expanding the allowance of alcohol sales at the park’s bandstand and Emerald City Amphitheater for various events put on by local 501(c)3 organizations.
Deneen suggests a narrowly defined provision opening the opportunity to local nonprofit events approved by the city could be a win-win for the organizations and city alike.
Giving nonprofits such opportunity could bolster annual fundraising results, potentially lowering the financial support the city extends to many through the year. Deneen also reminded council of the loss of the 2010 Mastercraft Pro Wakeboard Tour sponsored by Budweiser because of alcohol restrictions in place at the time, suggesting his proposal could make the community more attractive to such targeted events in the future.
The sale of alcohol already is allowed at Freeman Lake Park, but only for city-sponsored events. The city also allows renters of its public-owned facilities to offer alcohol with appropriate licenses for events and parties at Pritchard Community Center, Historic State Theater and at the Elizabethtown Tourism and Convention Bureau. Alcohol sales also are allowed during adult sports events held at Elizabethtown Sporks Park and at festivals and events held downtown around the square.
Although these provisions exist and have been allowed for some time now, the city’s practice has been different for parks such as Freeman Lake. Protecting the family-oriented outdoor atmosphere of the park from potentially negative impacts of alcohol sales, real or perceived, has been an argument against alcohol at Freeman Lake and other city-owned greenspace.
On the surface, this seems a reasonable argument. But when the park is transformed into an admission-only event, concert or festival venue, such occasions can justify allowing for the sale of alcohol.
Other arguments have centered on potential legal liabilities and the various clean-up and police service costs the city might encounter when events with alcohol sales and consumption are held on city property. While these concerns are reasonable, they are already present and well-managed by the city with regard to other events the city conducts or authorizes where alcohol is present.
Council members were mixed in their views of Deneen’s request. As the working session concluded Deneen asked council members to revisit the issue. It isn’t clear when continued discussion or a future vote will occur.
In the meantime, it seems reasonable that the same alcohol allowance the city enjoys for events it holds or co-sponsors can and should offered to nonprofits trying to raise money to support the many good works they do in the community.
It also seems reasonable that individuals or families would make their own choices about whether to attend an event where alcohol might be present.
This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board.