Plan would allow sale of alcohol at park events

Wednesday, May 23, 2007 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 5:11 p.m. CDT, Monday, July 21, 2008

The sounds of clinking wine glasses and popping champagne corks might join the buzz of music and conversation at future events in some Columbia public parks.

People can already bring their own drinks into parks, Parks and Recreation Director Mike Hood said, but a new proposal would let vendors sell beverages with a little more kick than soda or water at events and festivals in eight of Columbia’s largest public parks.

A draft resolution permitting special-occasion sales of beer, wine and champagne in city parks was presented by the Parks and Recreation Department to the City Council on Monday. The council forwarded the resolution to the Parks and Recreation Commission, which will review the plan and make recommendations, Hood said.

The proposal would allow the city to issue an “event alcohol sales permit” to those who apply at least 15 days before an event and agree to pay the city 10 percent of gross alcohol sales, or a base fee of $100, whichever total is greater.

Mayor Darwin Hindman supports the draft resolution.

“When used properly, alcohol can add to the event,” Hindman said Monday. “I think that this will enhance the use of our parks. ... I think it can be done, and I think it can be done well.”

If the draft proposal is accepted as is, vendors would have to meet several criteria before pouring festival-goers a cold one.

“First, alcohol sale has to serve a secondary purpose to the event itself,” Hood said. “You cannot have an event just to sell alcohol.”

Permit applicants would have to meet all Missouri state liquor laws and offer proof of $2 million in liability insurance. The proposal also forbids sale of hard liquor and requires those selling drinks to provide security personnel if the Parks and Recreation Department or Columbia police request it.

Hood said the purpose of these restrictions is to keep drink sales legal and orderly.

“We want to assure proper control of the activity,” Hood said. “We would require the police and Finance Department’s approval as well.”

The draft proposal has been brewing for over a year, when the City Council initially approached the parks department for help with a viable adult beverage sales plan, Hood said.

At Monday’s meeting, Second Ward Councilman Chris Janku pinpointed the Columbia Art League’s annual Art in the Park festival atStephens Lake Park as the catalyst for this proposal. The council voted to allow Les Bourgeois Winery to sell wine last year.

“They thought it would enhance their event, keep people in, bring people there and make it a larger attraction,” Janku said.

Though he agreed selling drinks could add to some public park events, Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade worried that the sale might have unintended consequences.

“I’m not convinced that the benefit to the individuals in those events is really strong enough to justify another message that gets sent with it,” Wade said.

Hood also suggested that a few bumps in the resolution might need to be smoothed before the proposal goes back to the council.

“Something we need to clear up is if this is just for nonprofit,” Hood said. “There was a suggestion that businesses operating for profit wouldn’t be able to sell.”

Parks cited in the proposal as the most appropriate for the sale of beer and wine were Lake of the Woods and Twin Lakes recreation areas and Stephens Lake, Nifong Memorial, Flat Branch, Albert-Oakland and Cosmo-Bethel parks.

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