COLUMBIA — Private organizations and individuals won’t be able to sell alcohol in city parks after the Columbia City Council voted against an ordinance Monday night that would have allowed the sale of alcohol at approved events.
The decision came after two hours of discussion, during which only two of people spoke in support of the ordinance. “The message I’m getting from the public is the status quo is fine,” Sixth Ward Councilwoman Barbara Hoppe said.
Community representatives cited many problems with the ordinance. The fact that two of the proposed parks, Cosmo-Bethel and Oakland parks, were near schools led to discussion of the message the council would project to the community.
“Why contribute to that message that we need alcohol to enjoy ourselves?” Youth Community Coalition chair Heather Windham said.
Most speakers argued that allowing the sale of alcohol at parks would negatively influence youth perception of alcohol
“They look to all of us to be the examples,” said Georgalu Swoboda, executive director of Big Brothers, Big Sisters.
Other speakers talked about litter issues, problems with driving while intoxicated, and influence on recovering alcoholics.
“You don’t have to be too smart to know this is a bad idea,” ordinance opposer Norbert Schumann said.
Fourth Ward Councilman Jerry Wade said that of the residents who had contacted him, the majority opposed the ordinance and a minority was indifferent.
“I believe the community has spoken,” Wade said.
Had the ordinance passed, private organizations and individuals who wanted to sell alcohol at approved events would have had to apply for an event alcohol sales permit. In order to be approved for the permit, the applicant would have had to already have a park special use permit, a state and city liquor license, and evidence of liability insurance totaling $2 million. The permit itself would have cost at least $100.
The council pointed out that because of those restrictions, the ordinance would have mainly applied to bigger events.
Existing city code indicates that alcohol is already allowed in parks, said Mayor Darwin Hindman, who voted for the ordinance. The ordinance concerned the selling of alcohol, and before the vote, the council discussed permitting alcohol sales on a case-by-case basis.
The council had asked the Parks and Recreation Department to make recommendations for alcohol sales at events and festivals on city park property in the summer of 2006 after allowing wine sales at the annual Art in the Park event. The department presented its report at the May 21 council meeting. The council then referred the draft policy to the Parks and Recreation Commission, who held a public hearing at their July 19 meeting. The commission recommended that the council not adopt the proposal.