Blackshear City Council is considering a revision to the city park ordinance that would potentially allow for alcohol to be served in the park.
The council discussed the matter in detail at a work session last week, but not all council members were on board with the suggested changes.
A first reading of the proposed ordinance appeared on an agenda for the council’s monthly meeting last night after (The Times’) deadline, but was removed from an amended agenda sent to The Times late Monday.
While the proposed ordinance still prohibits intoxication in the park, it would allow for the city council to approve a permit to vendors interested in serving alcoholic beverages at an event. Vendors would apply at city hall, pay a permit fee, and be subject to a background check by Blackshear PD. Approval of all permits would be at the discretion of the city council.
“I’m not sure that’s the route we need to go in the city park,” said councilman-elect Shawn Godwin last week. (Godwin was to be sworn in as the new District Five councilman ahead of last night’s meeting.)
The revision is designed to accommodate events like wine tastings, and is in line with what other cities are doing, says Better Hometown Manager Bethany Strickland.
Better Hometown is currently planning Blue Jeans and Collard Greens, a ticketed farm-to-table dinner in the park, in October, and local winery, Rabbiteye, would like to participate in the event.
Police Chief Chris Wright had no safety concerns with the way the ordinance has been revised.
“It’s not for anyone to have a throw down in the park,” Wright says.
Godwin’s primary concern was whether or not the council would have discretion to approve a permit for a winery, but deny one for another vendor — a beer distributor perhaps.
City Attorney Adam Ferrell advised the ordinance amendment provides council the liberty to issue permits on a case-by-case basis so long as a reason can be given for any denial.
“The council would have the discretion in whatever decision they make given the way it’s written,” Ferrell says. “The council would have to have a rational basis for why they’re denying the permit. It could be anything from the type of event, the time and date of the event and are children, families going to be there?”
Councilman Charles Broady suggested the council consider past history for any vendors requesting permit. Wright also noted other rules could be implemented. For instance, the ordinance could specify minors not be allowed to attend any events where alcohol is served or events not be scheduled before 6 p.m. if alcohol is available.
The proposed ordinance revision would also set park hours of operation from dawn to dusk, with the exception of permitted special events such as Beats & Eats or as otherwise authorized by the mayor.