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Little interest in liquor on the Town Common

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Michael Cowin, assistant city manager of Greenville, speaks at a public meeting regarding alcohol at Town Common at City Hall on Dec. 6, 2018. (Molly Mathis/The Daily Reflector)

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By Ginger Livingston
The Daily Reflector

Friday, December 7, 2018

A public input session on a proposal to allow liquor and fortified wine sales during events on the Town Common drew only one citizen, a local nightclub owner, Thursday night.

Sharif Hatoum, owner of Stilllife nightclub, said the proposed policy is a step in the right direction.

“It will open up opportunities for the private sector to get involved and do events,” Hatoum said. “When you do large-scale events, a lot of it is based on sponsorship. Without the ability to have alcohol at the Town Common, it eliminates a big sector of sponsors.” A company like Bacardi won’t sponsor an event unless it can have its product on-site, Hatoum said.

Starting with a test period that began in March 2017, the city has allowed malt beverages and wine to be sold, served and consumed at “properly sanctioned and permitted Town Common events.”

This summer Councilman Will Bell asked staff to develop a policy that would allow liquor and fortified wine sales.

Bell, who attended the session with Councilman Brian Meyerhoeffer, said he wasn’t surprised that only one person showed up.

“I think we have a track record over the last two years, easing in to it with beer and wine, people realize, with summer concerts that were held this year, with PirateFest, that everything went smoothly and people were responsible,” Bell said.

“If there was public outrage more people would show up,” Meyerhoeffer said.

“I think most people are in favor of seeing how this plays out,” Meyerhoeffer said. There’s been a lot of discussion about the untapped potential of the Town Council, he said, and its potential as an arts and entertainment venue.

“I think this may actually bolster our ability to recruit more entertainment here,” Meyerhoeffer said. “We want to have more options for our younger people and keep some of our young talent in town and one of the ways to do that is keep more entertainment in town.”

The public will have one more opportunity to comment on the proposal at a second input session scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday in the third flood gallery of City Hall.

Assistant City Manager Michael Cowin said the proposal likely will go to City Council in January.

Currently the policies for allowing alcohol consumption on the Town Common depend on whether the applicant wants to “serve, possess and consume” a beverage or wants to “sell, serve, possess and consume” a beverage.

The city, nonprofit organizations, political organizations or any other person, group or business that wants to serve, possess and consume malted beverages or unfortified wine only have to secure an approved lease agreement for use of the Town Common, Cowin said.

However, if the intention is to sell, serve, possess and consume malted beverages or unfortified wine, only the city, a nonprofit organization or political organization can apply for a lease. The entity also has to get a special, one-time permit from the state’s ABC Commission, Cowin said.

If liquor and fortified wine sales are allowed, applicants, whether they are simply serving the beverages or selling and serving the beverages must get special permitting from the state ABC Commission, Cowin said.

The applicant also would have to follow other restrictions the city has in place: having at least two special duty police officers in the alcohol zone; the applicant or a representative must be present in the alcohol zone at all times; the applicant must sign a waiver of liability holding the city harmless; glass containers and brown bagging won’t be allowed; and the city reserves the right to ask people to leave, Cowin said.

The applicant must also have public liability, liquor liability and property damage insurance.

Meyerhoeffer suggested that a one-year sunset provision be part of the proposal submitted to City Council so the policy can be reviewed. If no problems stem from offering liquor and fortified wine sales, then the policy can become permanent.

Contact Ginger Livingston at glivingston@reflector.com or 252-329-9570.

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