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City soon to vote on special events permit

Posted on Thursday, February 16, 2017 at 9:51 am

Beer sales may soon be allowed at certain special events

By Leila Beem Núñez, News Editor

During a work session on Tuesday, Feb. 7 the Board of Mayor and Aldermen discussed and debated the possible adoption of a special events permit and permit application process for the city, which would among other things allow for beer to be sold at special events on certain public areas. The area being considered in particular was Rotary Park.

Manchester Parks and Recreation Director Bonnie Gamble spoke at the work session and said the special permit had been brought before the Recreation Commission to look over, and that commission members were in favor of having a permit in place.

“It would really help with the operations of events we have going on,” Gamble said, adding that the permit would require applicants to indicate such things as whether there would be street closures, whether there would be traffic issues and whether EMS protection would be needed at the event. “The idea of being able to sell beer at a special event on public property is only a portion of this permit process. When I read through it, I think we really need this, because it really allows for someone who’s holding an event to put it down on paper ahead of time so I know, police know, everybody knows what’s required for that event.”

The application of the permit would be $25, and to apply for a separate permit to sell beer would cost another $75. There is also a state fee of $250 for the sale of beer.

Someone looking to hold an event would fill out the permit, which would then be distributed to all city department heads for revision and comment. The department heads would then recommend approval, denial or approval with adjustments. As far as city parks go, Rotary Park would be the only park where beer sales would be permitted, Gamble said.

City attorney Gerald Ewell Jr. said the city could see to it that the sale and consumption of beer in other parks like Fred Deadman remained prohibited, when some aldermen expressed concerns about where the sales would be allowed.

“The Board can designate it, or it can be part of the permit process, either one,” he said. “And there will have to be some amendments to [Manchester’s] beer ordinances.”

Vice Mayor Ryan French said the permit would bring in a host of new events to Rotary Park – as well as other areas such as the square, in the future. The city would then profit from both alcohol and sales taxes, French said.

“We have a $250,000 amphitheater that’s just not being utilized right now. This will clearly open up that opportunity.”

French added that other nearby communities like Tullahoma and Winchester already have the same permit.

“I think it’s important that we don’t stereotype the types of events that we’re having here,” French said. “These events held in communities around us are very tasteful.”

But not all in the session were in favor of the beer sales portion of the permit.

Alderman Bob Bellamy expressed his concerns about allowing alcohol sales in a city park area. He also said he thought that while there may exist a problem of attendees sneaking in alcohol at events currently, making it legal would allow for the consumption of beer without restriction or threat of being punished by authorities. Bellamy added he felt allowing the sale of beer would foster indecent behavior and public intoxication.

“The only thing I saw in the whole thing that I didn’t like was the beer. I think the beer is a terrible part of it,” Bellamy said. “I think putting beer in our city parks is going to terribly undermine the reputation of our city. The park areas are for kids and families.”

A decision on the special permit was postponed for two weeks while geographic designations as to where beer sales would be permitted are drawn up by the city attorney and codes department. The matter will likely come back to the Board during its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 21 at 6:30 p.m., with a work session scheduled at 5:30 p.m.