Originally created 07/08/06

Parks want alcohol at events



Columbia County parks could soon be serving up more than just bass fishing tournaments and jazz concerts. Wine and beer also could be on the menu for special events.

"The whole purpose is to allow alcohol to be dispensed in county park facilities, particularly the Wildwood Park Citgo Bassmasters event as well as the jazz series in the (new Evans) amphitheater,'' said Barry Smith, the county's community and leisure services director.

He said he believes allowing a vendor to sell beer and wine at certain outdoor events at county parks would help increase patronage and revenue.

An ordinance on the books doesn't allow alcoholic beverages to be served outside in parks.

However, with increased demand for events at such locations, including a recently acquired field behind the Evans Kroger, county officials have asked commissioners for support in allowing event organizers to have a beer and wine vendor operate at certain events.

Even then, county officials say, residents would not be allowed to bring their own alcohol.

Already, Sandy Boner, the manager of Savannah Rapids Pavilion, said vendors are permitted to serve alcohol at her facility and at the outdoor dance pavilion at the Augusta Canal headgates as long as the event occurs beneath a roof cover.

Alcohol also can be served indoors at county buildings such as the new Evans Library with a one-day permit.

Ms. Boner said that if commissioners agree to allow the sale of alcohol at Wildwood Park, the amphitheater and the field behind the Evans Kroger, law enforcement would be required for events depending on the number of visitors.

One extra deputy typically is required for events that have more than 50 people where alcohol is being served. An event that has between 50 and 199 visitors would require at least two deputies to oversee the alcohol sales. Events attracting 200 to 300 people would require three deputies.

Columbia County Commissioners seemed to favor the idea during a recent committee meeting.

A final vote will occur at the full board's next meeting at 2:30 p.m. July 18 at the Evans Government Center auditorium.

Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross said he thinks the idea is a good one.

"The main issue has been wine tastings and things like that involving our new entertainment venues,'' he said. "... I think they (vendors) should have that opportunity as long as it's under control.''

On a visit to the Evans amphitheater on Friday, Evans resident Shirley Perry said she believes county parks are child-friendly locations.

She said she would prefer that alcohol not be served at events for that reason.

She said that if alcohol sales are approved for such events and they are adequately overseen in the way of law enforcement, noise control and cleanup, "Maybe we can live with that.''

Still, she said, parents should be forewarned if a park event will have alcohol sales.

Reach Preston Sparks at (706) 868-1222, ext. 115, or preston.sparks@augustachronicle.com.

The Columbia County Commission will make its final vote on whether to allow vendors to sell beer and wine outdoors during certain events at its next meeting at 2:30 p.m. July 18 at the Evans Government Center auditorium.