Taking another step in shedding its dry-city past, Westerville will allow alcohol sales at an event at the Everal Barn at Heritage Park for the first time.

At their regular meeting March 20, City Council members approved allowing alcohol sales for specific events, paving the way for the Westerville Area Chamber of Commerce's anniversary celebration this summer.

The event will mark the 45th anniversary of the community Music and Arts Festival the chamber presents, along with the chamber's 50th anniversary. And now that council has approved the concept of selling beer, Matt Lofy, the chamber's marketing and communications manager and manager of the festival, said it's "full-steam ahead" with the plan.

"We started throwing around ideas for a band," he said, "and of course one of the big things we started talking about was, 'Who's going to come to a concert if you can't have a beer?'"

That question, along with a consistent stream of queries about alcohol after each chamber event, led to the concept being brought in front of council. A unanimous vote approved the idea, both for the anniversary concert and for other events.

In order to gain approval for selling beer in a controlled area between 6 and 9 p.m., organizations will have to submit a special-event application that includes plans on how the group will control the area and handle issues of insurance, identification of drinkers and other details.

"So (it's) not three guys from a frat house," council Chairman Mike Heyeck said with a laugh.

Organizations hosting events also will have to acquire a temporary permit from the Ohio Department of Liquor Control.

For Lofy and the chamber, the decision represented a move to compete with neighboring communities that have policies allowing drinking at events.

"We're kind of tired of hearing that people are going to Dublin or Hilliard; we have everything everyone needs right here," Lofy said.

"So I think this falls in line with what we've seen in last few years, with more and more events having alcohol," he said.

To balance the offering of alcohol, Lofy said the chamber picked a family-friendly band -- Shucking Bubba -- and will have craft brewers BrewDog as a sponsor of the event, promising to not throw "a rowdy party, by any means."

While Lofy promises it won't be rowdy, he said the event should be a fun example of Westerville's momentum.

"I think, with recent events in our community, everyone is just wanting to do more with our local community," he said. "There seems to be so much pride and an excited mentality around everyone in Westerville."

The chamber's Anniversary Concert will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. July 14 at the main stage of the Everal Barn with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. The festival will be held from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. July 14 and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. July 15.

For more information, visit www.westervillechamber.com.

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