Upper Arlington City Council members this week said they would consider approving alcohol sales, as well as the possible consumption of suds and spirits, in Northam Park on limited occasions.
Over the next several weeks, Upper Arlington City Manager Ted Staton and city staff members are expected to propose allowing alcohol sales and consumption in the park during the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce's Taste of UA.
Currently, alcohol is sold during the chamber event, but sales and consumption have been limited to designated areas in the nearby Tremont Center or St. Agatha Church and have not taken place in the park.
Now, the chamber has requested that sales and consumption be allowed within the park during Taste of UA.
Chamber President Becky Hajost said this would allow visitors to enjoy alcoholic beverages such as beer or wine while they sample food from the restaurants and other vendors being showcased, and they also would be permitted to drink while taking in event entertainment.
"We're trying to make it more part of the adult part of the park setting with the music and the restaurants," Hajost said during a city council conference session April 15.
She said under current city restrictions, Taste of UA attendees must leave the event grounds and indulge in adult beverages in a beer garden at St. Agatha.
"You're really having two separate events," she said.
This isn't the first time the chamber has petitioned the city to allow alcohol within the park during Taste of UA. It also made the request in 2011 when council approved alcohol sales and consumption at the Amelita Mirolo Barn at Sunny 95 Park.
At that time, city officials asked the chamber to delay its formal request while it studied the impact of alcohol at the Barn.
Since then, city officials said they've encountered no problems at the Barn, and Upper Arlington Parks and Recreation Director Tim Moloney said having alcohol just off-site at the Taste hasn't led to unwanted incidents.
"From a parks perspective, I would say we've had zero problems," Moloney said.
While details of where and how sales and consumption would be permitted in Northam Park haven't been finalized, some council members indicated during Monday's conference session they might support such activity on a strictly limited basis.
"I think if we're making a conscious decision to have alcohol and can do it in a controlled environment ... it just makes sense to me," Councilman Mike Schadek said.
Others, however, including Mayor Don Leach, council Vice President Frank Ciotola and Councilman Erik Yassenoff, indicated they favor the current "beer garden" format and would have to see more details before supporting sales and consumption within the park.
"I think kind of 'free range' around Northam Park is something I'm not comfortable with," Yassenoff said.
Ciotola added he has concerns about alcohol being served around children attending the Taste.
"I think these are family events, there are a lot of children and I'm really hesitant to expand it," he said. "If we do it at all, I would need to see something very, very controlled."
This year's Taste of UA is slated for Aug. 8. Because a legislative proposal would have to be read twice by council to allow for public input, council members said they wouldn't be able to meet the chamber's request for action on the request by May 1.
Council members also said they would consider alcohol in the park for the Taste and possibly the Upper Arlington Labor Day Arts Festival, but would not support such activities during the Fourth of July festivities and fireworks display.
"The Fourth of July is just too unruly," Yassenoff said.