Council approves alcohol at certain events

By Scott Halasz - [email protected]

XENIA — City Council March 23 narrowly approved allowing alcohol at certain city-sponsored events.

Current city ordinances prohibit the sales and consumption of alcohol on all city property, which includes parks, rights of way and city facilities. After receiving requests from the organizers of the Xenia Community Festival and the Tour de Xenia bike race to allow alcohol at those events, city staff drafted a proposed policy that would allow the sales and consumption of alcohol — limited to beer and wine — at those two events.

By a pair of 4-3 votes, council approved implementation of the proposed policy and the suspension of the specific ordinance at those two events in 2017 on a trial basis. Council members Dale Louderback, Jeanne Mills, Marsha Bayless, and Mike Engle voted in favor of the change.

In reality, beer and wine would be allowed at just the festival because City Manager Brent Merriman previously said he hasn’t received any confirmation that the Tour de Xenia — historically in May — will happen this year and at this point there would not be enough time to obtain the proper permits. Merriman also said the festival committee has not made a final decision on pursuing a beer garden.

According to city documents, sales and consumption would be limited to a cordoned-off area and security must be provided. Event organizers must obtain proper permits from the state’s department of liquor control and carry insurance as well. A $125 administrative fee must accompany any application.

Other highlights of the policy include:

— No glass containers will be used and the type and size of the container must be approved by the city manager, who also reserves the right to dictate the type and size.

— Sales cutoff will be one hour before the event ends.

— The applicant must carry a minimum of $1 million in general liability insurance.

— The city can revoke the permit at any time during the event if it feels it would be in the best interest of the city.

The beer garden itself would be located at Shawnee Park’s southeast corner, about as far away as possible from the rides and kids games.

“The intent was to create an open-space buffer and segregate the beer garden activities from the rest of the venue,” Merriman said in an email. “We all agreed this would be a good idea.”

Despite the split vote, council was fairly united in that there are some concerns about allowing alcohol.

Bayless said she doesn’t drink for personal and spiritual reasons but did check around with other cities that allow alcohol and none reported issues specifically related to alcohol. She said she represents all opinions, not just hers.

Mills said citizens she spoke with were split and even though she struggled with the idea, she said she was willing to allow a one-time trial and see what happens.

In casting a no vote, council member Sarah Mays said Xenia struggles daily with drug and alcohol issues and she challenged council to decide if introducing alcohol at events is beneficial.

Edgar Wallace said alcohol is a “gateway” drug to others and was against the proposal. He also suggested the fee should be higher.

By Scott Halasz

[email protected]

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.

Contact Scott Halasz at 937-502-4507.