Starting this year, golfers can (legally) have a beer at the Delaware-owned Hidden Valley Golf Course.

Delaware City Council approved beer sales at the course March 28, following a study on ways to increase the operation's revenue.

City spokesman Lee Yoakum said nightly cleanups at the nine-hole course at 580 W. William St. had revealed beer clandestinely was being consumed there in the past.

He said the study was conducted by a city-appointed group that included golfers.

It was motivated by the fact that in some years, the course's expenditures exceed revenue. When revenue exceeds expenses, the surplus has been held in reserve to cover future deficits.

The group's goal was to find ways to improve overall finances, he said.

Yoakum said the golf course in 2017 had total revenue of $168,994 and total operating expenditures of $161,604 -- a $7,390 positive margin. Because of equipment purchases totaling $8,853, net cash flow finished slightly in the red at $1,463, he said.

"(That's) the lowest negative margin in the last four seasons, so we think changes in place are starting to have a positive impact, and the trend will continue in 2018," Yoakum said.

Those changes in place include adjusting course rates last year, using seasonal staff when possible and reviewing sponsorships.

Notes on council's agenda said the language in the beer ordinance gives council the option of selling other types of alcohol in the future.

The agenda estimated a conservative annual revenue increase of $5,000 to $8,000 after beer sales begin.

Startup fees were listed at $7,776, including the cost of a refrigerator, coolers and a state liquor permit.

At-large Councilman George Hellinger cast the lone dissenting vote.

During its first reading March 12, Hellinger said he opposed the plan.

"Our parks are meant to be a place for healthful exercise, and also with what we've done with the golf course, we're trying to get more youth out there," he said.

"Worse, it's mixed signals. We're saying, 'Kids, get out here and enjoy the fresh air,' and look at that threesome over there ... drinking as they go around the golf course. That's one issue.

"Another issue is ... unless you're a golfer, you don't go down to the golf course. If you've been down there, you know what a wonderful area that is and we've talked about opening it up for other possible uses of some sort, (such as) a nature trail that may ultimately tie into a bikeway ... at some point in the future. But if you have additional uses down there ... (beer) would still be allowed. ... I think it sends very mixed signals to our youth."

Mayor Carolyn Riggle predicted golfers will have an occasional beer and not drink heavily.

She also noted children can see their parents legally drinking beer at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium and at Walt Disney World in Florida.

Yoakum said the city plans to talk to local microbrewers to see if they are interested in providing their products.

Hidden Valley opened for the season March 25. It is a par-3 course with one par-4 hole.

"We believe there is a niche for a course like Hidden Valley," Yoakum said.

"It's an executive par-28 course, enough challenge for experienced golfers, and beginners can enjoy it without spending a full day on a larger course."

He said about 10,000 rounds of golf are played there annually.

The course has three sets of tees for different skill levels.

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