Upper Arlington News

Proposal would allow alcohol sales in Northam Park

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Upper Arlington City Council is expected to decide June 10 whether alcohol sales and consumption will be permitted in Northam Park during Taste of UA.

If council agrees, it would be the first time the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce would be allowed to sell alcohol in the park during its annual food festival.

On June 10, council is expected to hear a second and final reading of legislation to permit alcohol to be sold and consumed within the park during the Taste of UA, but both sales and consumption would be limited to an "enclosed area" designated by Upper Arlington City Manager Ted Staton.

Chamber of commerce officials requested approval for alcohol sales and consumption during the event, which annually features samples from more than 100 area vendors, as well as live music, children's activities and products and services of other businesses.

In recent years, the chamber has partnered with St. Agatha Church, which has allowed the chamber to stage a beer garden on church property at 1860 Northam Road during Taste of UA.

The chamber first offered alcohol during Taste of UA in 2009. At that time, a beer garden was established in the nearby Tremont Center parking lot.

In both cases, however, alcohol sales and consumption were restricted to those off-site areas, and not permitted within Northam Park.

"Placing the beer garden in the park allows local beverage distributors and/or craft brewers to fully participate in the Taste of UA along with our food vendors," said Kevin Fix, vice chairman of the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce Advocacy Board.

Taste of UA is slated from 3:30 to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 8 in Northam Park.

Upper Arlington City Attorney Jeanine Amid Hummer said the legislation before council is specific to Taste of UA and does not authorize alcohol sales or consumption in Northam Park at any other time.

The proposed ordinance says sales and consumption "during other special events" could be permitted in the park in the future, but not unless authorized by council.

"City council looked at how broad (it) wanted this to be," Hummer said. "The consensus was to leave it as just this event at Northam Park in an enclosed area."

Hummer said city staff looked to other communities which host events in public parks when shaping its proposal for council, but ultimately decided to limit sales consumption within a fenced-off area.

"It is not unusual that events like this allow for alcohol," she said. "This is a very narrow approach.

"They cannot take (alcohol) throughout the park. It is consumed within the enclosed area."

The proposed ordinance also stipulates there can be no alcohol sales or consumption within the park after 11 p.m.

Upper Arlington Mayor and Council President Don Leach said council members weren't supportive of allowing alcohol universally within public parks, or for other community events such as the July Fourth celebration.

However, he noted alcohol sales and consumption have been permitted for roughly a year at the Amelita Mirolo Barn at Sunny 95 Park and the city staff has reported no problems there.

"It has gone smoothly," Leach said. "So, that made us more comfortable with having an area to have similar sales at Northam Park.

"I think, overall, council is not interested in widespread use of alcohol in parks," he said. "We're approving this on a very limited basis."

Initially, chamber officials asked council to permit consumption throughout the park during Taste of UA so attendees could drink while perusing or sampling vendor offerings.

Last week, however, chamber officials said they had no problem with restricting sales and consumption to an enclosed area, which they are referring to as the "Tasting Room."

"We are absolutely not disappointed," chamber President Becky Hajost said. "The Taste of UA is a family-oriented event. Having a designated area near the chamber tent in close proximity to the music will allow future opportunities to provide a unique experience to pair food and offer 'tastings' to help promote our local area restaurants.

"The chamber is constantly looking for ways to enhance the overall experience for members and visitors alike."

Council's June 10 meeting is slated for 7:30 p.m. at the Upper Arlington Municipal Services Center, 3600 Tremont Road.

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