Alcohol Sales Eyed At Four Berlin Chamber Special Events

BERLIN — Despite success with the town’s recently added provisions for alcohol sales during events, there was still some hesitation by the Berlin Council this week to approve sales during the May 5 Jazz and Blues Bash. After finally being approved, the discussion then touched on which events in Berlin would be acceptable venues for alcohol sales and which would not.

Last October, the council voted to allow the chamber to host a beer garden during Berlin’s first Octoberfest. Soon after, the council agreed to expand the area in which alcohol could be sold during town events, with the end goal of allowing the chamber to better supply beer and wine during festivals the council deemed appropriate.

“It’s a much more upscale event,” said Chamber President Olive Mawyer of the Jazz and Blues Bash.

Mawyer reasoned that because of the generally adult atmosphere of the Jazz and Blues Bash and the examples set by other similar concert events all around the country, it would be acceptable for the council to authorize a chamber-run beer and wine tent during the festival.

However, Mawyer also acknowledged that not all town events should have similar setups.

“The Spring Celebration is not appropriate to have a beer tent,” she noted as an example.

In fact, of the major events listed on the chamber website, Mawyer felt that only four should include alcohol sales. The events she did feel would be appropriate venues were the Jazz and Blues Bash, Mayday Play Day, the Fiddlers Convention, and Octoberfest. The list raised some eyebrows amongst the council.

“The Mayday Play Day sounds like kids,” said Councilwoman Paula Lynch.

Community and Economic Development Director Michael Day admitted that the name could be misleading. He told Lynch that, while the event is family friendly it is also geared towards all age groups, includes plenty of adult activities and therefore it wouldn’t be unreasonable to feature a chamber-run beer and wine tent.

Lynch was surprised that the town’s New Year’s Eve Ball Drop wasn’t included in Mawyer’s list. Day pointed out that, while the venue would certainly be appropriate, private businesses in town such as the Globe and the Atlantic Hotel already meet the needs of the crowd as far as supplying alcohol.

Mayor Gee Williams stressed that the council wouldn’t be approving all of the events that Mawyer had mentioned that night, only the Jazz and Blues Bash. He explained that any time the chamber wishes to sell alcohol at a festival, they need to come before the council for permission to do so before each individual event.

“Every event has to be approved every time,” Williams said.

The mayor added that there haven’t been any issues so far, even during Octoberfest, which drew in crowds much larger than expected. Mawyer agreed and told the council that the chamber and the town, “learn at each event.”

However, when the time to actually vote on whether to approve alcohol sales during the Jazz and Blues Bash arose, the meeting stalled.

There was a long silence when Williams requested a motion, broken by an obviously reluctant Lynch. Critical in the past of the town becoming involved in alcohol sales at events, Lynch admitted that she hadn’t planned on being the one to introduce the motion to approve, but was willing to do so since no one else stepped forward.

Once the motion was on the table, it was quickly and unanimously accepted by the council, with the exception of Councilman Troy Purnell, who was absent for the vote.

Hoping to become more comfortable with the direction Berlin was going, Lynch requested that the town seek out information from the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) regarding licensing.

“I know there are different kinds of licenses,” she said, adding that she would like clarification on how the town was involved.

Day promised to look into the matter. If a representative of the BLC wasn’t readily available to meet with the council in person, Day was confident that he could get a concise written breakdown of license laws, which he would then distribute to the council.

Williams chalked up the council’s reluctance to set forth a motion to “nobody wanting to be the first to pull the trigger” rather than any deeper anxieties over chamber alcohol sales. He reiterated that the chamber will need to come in prior to every event before receiving approval for an alcohol tent or beer garden. According to Williams, each new petition will be judged based on the relative success of the events that came before it.

If chamber-run alcohol sales are perceived to cause trouble during festivals, Williams promised that they would stop immediately.