Mason County News
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Wine & Cheese Does Not Constitute a Bar!
Wednesday, February 4, 2009 • Posted February 4, 2009

During the last two meetings of the City Commission, there has been a great deal of discussion about allowing alcohol to be served at the new Richard P. Eckert Civic Center. I fear the discussion has been clouded by misperceptions.

Several groups have already held events at the Civic Center, and several of those events included the serving of wine and or beer. The Chamber of Commerce held their Christmas Gala Mixer at the Civic Center, and offered a wide selection of wine, as well as soft drinks, tea and water. I did not stay till the very end; but, I don't seem to recall anyone dancing on the tables.

Part of the confusion is probably due in part to comparisons to events at the Community Building, where the serving of alcohol is allowed.

I've been to several of the events at the Community Building where beer, wine and liquor were served. I have observed that when people have to return to a bartender or server to get their drinks, as opposed to serving themselves, they tend to drink less. I've also observed that when keg beer is offered, the amount of drinking usually increases substantially.

During discussions about the Civic Center, it was suggested that if alcohol were served, it be limited to only wine and canned beverages, and that kegs would not be allowed. And that is an important distinction when considering serving alcohol: the City can dictate what can and cannot be served, whether or not security will be required, and how late the event can go.

Much of the discussion also centered on the fact that the Civic Center is in the middle of a residential neighborhood. That is one of its appealing aspects; but, also one of its drawbacks.

Neighbors in attendance at earlier meetings commented that when some of the prior events had been held, they didn't really have problems with the alcohol or trash from those events so much as they were inconvenienced by the parking situation. Neighbors to the immediate west of the center have to deal with people literally parking in their front yards, while the neighbors on McKinley, just to the south, have to deal with traffic on the road entering and leaving the facility.

Several of the speakers suggested that if the parking lot were striped with appropriate parking rather than being a large asphalt field, it would help the public to know where they need to put their vehicles. It made a big difference at the Community Building, even though that facility has much more overflow parking availability.

And, many of the neighbors with small children worried that if alcohol were served at events, there might be an increased risk to their children and property from people leaving the facility. I would suggest that if alcohol is not allowed AT the event, many people will return to their coolers in their vehicles and get their own. While they are doing this, they are in sight of the neighbors. They are also more likely to drop cans and bottles in the back of their vehicles, which are more likely to end up as refuse blowing about the neighborhood.

There is no simple and clean answer to whether or not to allow alcohol at events at the new Civic Center. Yet, for the six months it has been owned by the City, with no restrictions in place, alcohol has been served and no problems have thus far been reported.

Perhaps a one-year trial with less restrictions might be in order. That would allow the neighbors to determine what types of concerns they are actually experiencing. It would also allow the City to determine how different uses actually affect the facility, and what changes might need to be made.

And, it would allow responsible groups the freedom to use a facility for whatever types of events they are planning, and to make the decision for themselves as to whether or not they will serve alcohol. They are ultimately the responsible parties, and are the ones who must handle attendees and the actions of those people.

The next City meeting to discuss the issue is scheduled for Monday, February 9th at 5:00 p.m. at the Civic Center. Whether you wish to discuss the issue, or just want to hear the discussion, I would urge your attendance.

It’s all just my opinion, but it’s what I wish would happen.

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