Clint Lopez tries a wine which Stacy Guinn, of Club Liquor, describes as she pours during Uncorked in February at the Derby Public Library. Uncorked was one of two Derby events which piloted the city’s attempt to allow the serving of alcohol in public places. Uncorked, put on by the Derby Community Foundation, raised nearly $18,000 for the organization.
After a successful pilot project which allowed serving alcohol at two events, the Derby City Council has approved a permitting system for future events.
The system was approved after lengthy discussion by the council at its June 12 meeting.
The new ordinance will allow special events at the Derby Public Library, High Park and Madison Avenue Central Park to serve liquor or cereal malt beverages, when a permit is approved by the city manager. All applications will also be reviewed and approved by the police chief.
Events at the library, during regular library hours, will be limited to the community room and security will have to be provided at the door to ensure regular library patrons do not have access to the special event. Events held at the library after hours will be allowed to spill into the gathering spaces and the library itself.
The library board supported the plan to allow the special events. In addition, the staff came up with a plan to move displays away from the entry area of the library and provide space inside the main library, according to Kathy Sexton, city manager.
"They realized it is really a library on one side and an event center on the other side," she said.
In looking at the potential ordinance, Sexton said she believed the scope of the special events needed to be narrowed to the three places suggested. For example, the city’s Austin Room in the Senior Center/Welcome Center was considered, but the staff wanted to keep it open for senior events and city business. Other parks in the community were also not considered suitable for such events.
"These two parks would be basically the only ones made for an event like that," Sexton said.
The staff did consider the Rec Center’s community rooms, but plans to move them to the Madison Avenue Central Park eliminated that need. Also, at the moment, the library has the largest community room area, but once the former gymnasium at the park becomes an event center, it will be the larger room, she said.
The ordinance does not restrict areas within the parks. The application process will allow Sexton or the police chief the opportunity to offer alternatives, if children’s ball games or other events might interfere with the request for an event serving alcohol.
Council members discussed a need to have elected officials in on the approval process of the special permits. Suggestions were made to have the mayor sign or to put the approval on the council’s consent agenda, just as all parade routes are approved by the council. That process also raised concerns that future council members who opposed the idea could put a stop to all events.
"I think we need to let the process go forward," said Mark Staats, council member. "We should keep the politics out of it at this time and let the city manager manage this."
An amendment to require the mayor’s signature on the event’s approval form was later withdrawn. In addition, a call for the vote before all council members commented split the council. Avello broke the tie and voted to allow further discussion.
Council members said they were concerned with the potential message given to children, should they see drinking at the library. Most on the council, though, seemed to have the opinion that they were not elected to teach morality.
"It starts in the home, not up here," said Heath Horyna, council member. "That’s where you teach your children right and wrong."
The idea of allowing alcohol in the community room came due to requests to have anniversary receptions, where a toast is offered.
"I don’t think John Belushi and the Animal House crew are going to show up at the library and have a kegger," Staats said.
The council approved the new ordinance, with Vaughn Nun and Jim Craig voting against it.
Avello cautioned the community on abusing the intent of the ordinance as the discussion wrapped up.
"This is built on quality of life issues and this is very, very important to this community," Avello said. "I’m putting the burden tonight on the citizenry of Derby, that if you keep in line we’ll have a good thing going ... Don’t abuse it, because you will lose it."
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