Upper Arlington officials have given the green light for alcohol to be served in Northam Park during the annual Taste of UA.
Upper Arlington City Council unanimously granted a request June 10 from the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce to permit alcohol sales and consumption during the Aug. 8 event.
The city has allowed alcohol to be purchased and consumed at the Amelita Mirolo Barn at Sunny 95 Park for approximately a year. In the case of the Barn, city officials have said alcohol has presented no problems.
Now, they're extending that privilege to the Taste of UA, an annual food festival hosted by the chamber in Northam Park.
However, both sales and consumption will be limited to a designated, enclosed area and not permitted throughout the park, according to the ordinance passed by council.
"We are elated and know that this decision comes with a great deal of responsibility," said Becky Hajost, president of the Upper Arlington Area Chamber of Commerce.
Alcohol is not new to the Taste of UA. It has been offered outside Northam Park since 2009.
Initially, Taste patrons could purchase and consume adult beverages in a beer garden in the Tremont Center parking lot, and in recent years, a similar area has been provided on St. Agatha Church property at 1860 Northam Road.
This year, Hajost said, the chamber sought to bring alcohol into the park to make it more convenient for attendees to enjoy food and music with drinks. Although they won't be permitted to leave the "Tasting Room" with alcoholic beverages, visitors can bring their meals inside the Tasting Room.
"Visitors will no longer need to leave the event site to share a beverage," she said. "Our goal is to provide exhibitors with as much exposure as possible while offering event-goers an exceptional experience.
"The Taste of UA is a family-oriented event," Hajost added. "Having a designated area near the chamber tent in close proximity to the music we believe will create additional opportunities in the future as this part of the event flourishes."
Council members passed the ordinance without discussion on June 10.
However, Upper Arlington Mayor and Council President Don Leach last month said the move to permit alcohol in a designated area for the Taste of UA was a conservative approach to the chamber's request.
"I think, overall, council is not interested in widespread use of alcohol in parks," he said following council's May 28 meeting. "We're approving this on a very limited basis."
The Taste of UA annually features samples from approximately 130 area vendors, as well as live music, children's activities and products and services of other businesses.
The ordinance passed by council is specific to Taste of UA and does not authorize alcohol sales or consumption in Northam Park at any other time.
It also states that sales and consumption "during other special events" could be permitted in the park in the future, but not unless authorized by council.
Further, alcohol sales and consumption must be cut off by 11 p.m.
"Now we can offer an integrated experience for visitors to experience the local area business community while allowing local vendors the opportunity to showcase both their options for food and beverages," Hajost said. "We will have a separate table as in the past to check IDs.
"The area will be enclosed by fencing (and) have only one entrance and exit. We will have (a police) officer present, as well."
In addition to craft beers that will be offered in the Tasting Room, Hajost said this year's Taste of UA will feature local food, music and specialty craft food.
Former Ohio State University football coach John Cooper will be on hand to sign autographs and there will be celebrity food judges from the Columbus Crew and OSU.