BERLIN — After the Town passed an ordinance last year giving the Council the authority to suspend the local container laws, everyone involved said they understood there would be a bit of a learning curve, and the Town got its first lesson from the Worcester County Board of Liquor Control (BLC) this week.
Although they have already had a test run of the open container suspension, when the Chamber began the process of getting permission to sell beer themselves, the BLC suggested that the organization re-think its decision to have a beer garden.
Actually, “suggested” may be too soft a word.
“The representative we spoke to was very insistent that it just be an area where we can sell,” said Town Administrator Tony Carson.
From the BLC’s point of view, given that the Town has suspended the open container laws for a few of the Town’s major events, setting up a distinct area where people can sit and drink after being served is contrary to the point.
By providing a service area alone, not only will the Town have a much smaller concentration of people trying to occupy the same area, it will also discourage people just sitting and drinking all during the event.
Given that the move to suspend the open container laws was tied primarily to better use of police presence as well as a potential amenity and revenue generator for the Chamber and the Town, the suggestion was accepted pretty much without comment.
The open container law was not passed to encourage more drinking and it is possible that maintaining the fenced area would actually not have the desired affect.
The event in question, May Day Play Day, is a rock music festival, sponsored by a local radio station, Ocean 98, in conjunction with the Town.
Town Director of Community and Economic Development Michael Day told the Council that the set up for the event would be identical to last year’s and that Ocean 98 was handling the bulk of logistics and promotion. As with last time, the Town will be responsible for street closures, electricity and security.
“It’s the same setup as the ball drop,” Day said.
Town streets will be closed from the Municipal Parking Lot on North Main Street to the Bay, Jefferson, and Main Streets intersection. Broad Street will be closed West of Gay Street.
The Chamber, for its part, hopes this is the first of several planned fundraisers to go off without a hitch and was happy to take the BLC’s recommendations unto consideration as they planned the event.
Mayor Gee Williams expressed his belief that these recurring events can do nothing but bolster the Town’s image and improve it’s merchants’ standing as well.
“I think this is another one of these events that’s going to be around for awhile,” he said.
The Council agreed to the suggestion unanimously and passed the motion supporting suspension of the open container law during the May 11 event.
The Chamber also received permission from the Council to once again host the “Spring Cruisers” event Saturday, May 19.
Chamber Executive Director Olive Mawyer told the council she expected between 250-300 old time vehicles to use the town parking lots and parking spaces. She secured permission to block off the municipal lot between North Main Street and William Street to accommodate as many cars as possible.
“As long as we can fit all the cars in there,” she said. “We’ll do our best to fit them in.”
Day added that for this event the primary concerns of the Town had mainly to do with traffic control.
He said that there would be no food venders or on-street events that would require extra organization or supervision.
The two events come on the heels of the Berlin Jazz and Blues Bash which is the unofficial kickoff for the concert festival season in Berlin.
Although the open container laws were suspended for that event as well, the plan was to have a beer and wine tent at the midway point. Because there was no planned service area for the Jazz and Blues event, the issue of whether or if the Town should have a fenced in service area never came up.
Now that the question has been addressed to everyone’s satisfaction it will be incorporated into all future planning.
The Town ordinance requires that those wishing to serve alcohol to get permission from them as well as the BLC and the approval process remains rigorous in that not every event will be approved. Although none have been turned down so far, the Jazz and Blues Bash proposal nearly died for lack of a motion.