Mayor Darwin Hindman persuaded the City Council to approve the Columbia Art League’s request to sell wine at the Art in the Park annual event despite opposition from police and park officials.
City park policy prohibits the sale of alcohol in city parks, but the Art League asked the council to allow one sponsor, Les Bourgeois Winery, to sell wine by the bottle during the June event. Art in the Park includes a contest in which artists design labels for bottles in the Les Bourgeois collector’s edition, Art League Director Jill Stedem said.
Hindman said during Monday’s council meeting that Art in the Park offers a chance to try the sale of alcohol in parks. He expects no problems.
“The sale of alcohol in connection with the function is a reasonable use of the park,” he said. “I favor the general idea of allowing groups to sell at their activities under very controlled circumstances.”
But city policy has not favored that idea. Although no ordinance specifically prohibits selling alcohol in city parks, Parks and Recreation Department policy allows it only at concession stands with state-approved liquor licenses. Those exist at two golf courses and at Rainbow Softball Complex.
City ordinances also ban intoxicated people from city parks and prohibit all commercial sales in parks. While the Parks Department issues permits that allow groups to sell some items at events, it has never approved alcohol sales.
Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood cited two reasons for opposing alcohol sales at Art in the Park. First, complying with state liquor laws is difficult, and the city would be ultimately responsible for any sales in a park. Second, the decision could set a precedent.
“The question becomes: If you allow it at this event, where do you draw the line?” he said.
Police Chief Randy Boehm said he worries about precedent from a public safety standpoint; although selling alcohol at Art in the Park might pose no problem, it could at other events.
Hindman conceded that those concerns are important. “But do you think we ought to loosen up a little bit?”
Hindman doesn’t think allowing alcohol sales at Art in the Park is a policy decision.
“We should consider this single application but not set a precedent,” he said, drawing chuckles from colleagues.
Third Ward Councilman Bob Hutton and Fourth Ward Councilman Jim Loveless cast the only votes against the idea. The council did decide to limit the amount of wine a person can buy, to restrict sales to an enclosed area and to end sales an hour before the event ends. Fifth Ward Councilwoman Laura Nauser said those rules will stop people from “becoming overzealous in their consumption.”