BERLIN — Despite having several events under the town’s belt with no problems, the Berlin Mayor and Council once again hesitated to approve outdoor alcohol sales during two special events that would take place within a week of each other.
“I don’t think we need two booze selling events in Berlin in six days,” said Councilwoman Paula Lynch.
The request that troubled Lynch came from Jennifer Dawicki, owner of The Globe. Though Lynch asserted that she trusted Dawicki to be responsible if granted an extension on her liquor license that would allow alcohol sales on public property for the Jazz and Blues Bash on May 5 as well as May Day Play Day on May 11, Lynch voiced the opinion that the schedule should not become the norm.
Economic and Community Development Director Michael Day explained that, while the Chamber of Commerce was responsible for selecting the date of Jazz and Blues, May Day was a privately-sponsored event, which is also held on Main Street.
For next year, Day said he was confident that the chamber could schedule Jazz and Blues so that it was separated from May Day.
“There are a lot of nice weekends in the spring,” said Mayor Gee Williams.
From a personal standpoint, Dawicki reminded the council that her business has yet to have an alcohol-related issue as far as selling on public property during events.
“It could not have gone any better for us, both inside and outside, on New Year’s Eve,” she said.
Lynch admitted that “control has been excellent” but harbored concerns over the crowds that might be drawn in during that one week with two events.
“Numbers create problems,” she said.
The town is implementing additional checks and balances for future events, however, according to Town Administrator Tony Carson.
Carson reminded the council that per request of the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC), Berlin would be significantly shrinking the area in which alcohol is sold at town events.
Williams stressed that this was not because of any problems, but because of the town’s new limited open container laws during special celebrations. Therefore, less room is needed to actually serve, he said.
Carson also revealed that Berlin will be upgrading from the standard snow fencing it has been using to cordon off the alcohol serving area at events to a semi-permanent $700 vinyl fence that will be set up and then removed before and after each festival.
“It looks a lot better than the orange fencing and it will stay up better,” he said.
Councilwoman Lisa Hall said she approved of the fencing, but wondered if Dawicki should be the one shouldering the expense. Carson replied that Dawicki had made that offer but, for liability reasons, he felt the town should actually own the fence.
When it came time to grant or deny approval, the room was silent for an extended period of time, and it appeared the motion would die on the table. However, when it was apparent no one else on the council would step forward, Lynch did so, albeit reluctantly. Her motion to send a letter of support to the BLC for Dawicki’s extended license was quickly and unanimously approved.
It was an eerie repeat of a similar situation last month when a request to sell alcohol during a public event by the chamber was also greeted with a hushed council until Lynch came forward.
Williams has characterized the issue as just a matter of the council being shy about “pulling the trigger”. He reiterated that the new laws concerning alcohol sales on public property have only served to expand what Berlin offers to visitors.