Berlin Looking To Ease Event Alcohol Restrictions

BERLIN — After the success of last month’s Octoberfest, the Berlin Mayor and Council are considering changing the rules regarding alcoholic beverages on public property during specially sanctioned events.

Last month, Berlin hosted its first-ever Octoberfest, which included a beer garden located downtown. Though some residents and members of the council initially hesitated to allow the Chamber of Commerce to sell alcohol on public property, the event came and passed without incident and actually turned out more successful than expected.

“We were hoping for 500 [visitors] and got 2,500,” said Community and Economic Development Director Michael Day.

Despite the huge crowd and the flowing alcohol, Day reported after Octoberfest that there were no major problems and that the atmosphere stayed civil and festive throughout the day. After using Octoberfest as a test run, the council is ready to consider expanding some traditional and new events in Berlin to include the sale of alcohol on town property.

Mayor Gee Williams noted that though successful, the October beer garden was somewhat restrictive to larger crowds.

“It was a little bit confusing for people; people just naturally wander around,” he said.

Williams pointed out that, because of how some businesses are licensed in town, someone who wanted a beer from the garden wasn’t able to drink in the same area as someone who purchased alcohol from the Atlantic Hotel.

“I just think this simplifies things,” he said of the proposed ordinance.

Day suggested expanding the area where alcohol can be served in respect to the large number of visitors town events have been bringing in recently.

“Pretty much [all of] downtown would work fine,” said Day.

As for what events the town would want alcohol at, the list remains open. Besides the obvious Octoberfest and probable inclusion of New Year’s Eve, if not this year than next, Day has remarked in the past that the popular Fiddler’s Convention and Jazz and Blues Festival might also see alcohol sales if the new ordinance is passed.

Not everyone on the council was enthusiastic about loosening the current restrictions.

“Once you pass this ordinance, there’ll be more [drinking at town events],” warned Councilwoman Paula Lynch.

Lynch, who expressed concern when Octoberfest was first proposed months ago, has been vocal about her worry that encouraging drinking at town events might start to bring in the wrong kind of crowd. While the rest of the council was respectful of Lynch’s fears, it was pointed out that Berlin would not be leaving the gate open for the barbarians by passing the edict.

“It’s not a blanket [clause] that you can do it every day,” said Town Administrator Tony Carson.

“It means everything should be on a case-by-case basis,” said Williams.

Williams explained that alcohol would only be allowed during set hours at approved events, each of which would have to come before the council to request alcohol. If problems ever arise, he reasoned, the council can deny whatever applications they choose.

“We’re not doing anything here unique to any communities in this region,” Williams said.

Though Lynch remained reluctant, she conceded that with the success of Octoberfest she was willing to move forward with the new ordinance. The council will reserve its final decision until after a Nov. 28 public hearing where residents will be able to supply their own opinions on the changes.