BERLIN — Months after beginning the experiment, the Berlin Mayor and Council seem to have finally grown more comfortable with the idea of the Chamber of Commerce selling alcohol at town events., as they swiftly and unanimously approved a beer garden for the 2nd Annual May Day Play Day this week.
“I’m very proud of the work the chamber and Main Street Berlin have done,” said Mayor Gee Williams.
Last October, Berlin made its first foray into chamber-run beer gardens at the 1st Annual Octoberfest. After a positive response from the community, beer gardens were subsequently approved for the spring Jazz and Blues Fest and now May Day Play Day.
“These events have proven themselves,” said Williams.
While the town’s 2nd Annual New Year’s Eve celebration did not include a beer garden, it was the first time that Berlin flexed newly adopted rules allowing open containers of alcohol on certain streets during some special events. Both a beer garden and the new open container rule have been approved for the Jazz and Blues event and May Day Play Day.
However, Monday’s approval of May Day Play Day marked the first time the council as a body acted without hesitation to approve a beer garden. When Jazz and Blues’ chamber alcohol sales were approved last month, there was a long silence after a motion was sought. Eventually, noticeably reluctant Councilwoman Paula Lynch stepped forward to sponsor the motion, which was then unanimously approved.
At the time, Williams attributed the hesitation to no one on the council wanting to “pull the trigger” and be the first to put the motion on the table. While there have not been any further tests of the new alcohol rules in Berlin since that meeting, the council was not gun shy this time around.
After a brief discussion with Chamber Executive Director Olive Mawyer and Berlin Economic and Community Development Director Mike Day, the council quickly rubber stamped May Day Play Day.
“It’s a very nice way just to enhance the events,” said Williams.
Day did point out that, on the recommendation of the Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC), beer gardens for future events will be smaller than they have so far. He said that they are shrinking not because of anticipated problems with crowds or rowdiness, but because the new open container law meant the garden did not need to be large to fulfill its intended role.
“It’s just making it so much easier … it’s just a smoother operation,” said Day.
“The beer garden shrinking actually creates more space,” Williams agreed.
Day explained that a smaller area for alcohol sales was also easier to monitor.
“We’re not going to create bottlenecks,” he said.
Based on the evidence from Octoberfest and New Year’s Eve, Williams said that he has developed a level of comfort in regards to Berlin’s alcohol policies. That trust is increased, he continued, by the way the town and visitors have conducted themselves.
“Everyone has a stake … When we sponsor these events, the community is responsible,” Williams said.
Day also highlighted how Berlin visitors and residents have responded to the new rules.
“Our track record is short, but we’ve had no problems,” he said.
Day promised that the chamber would continue to self-monitor events in addition to the Berlin Police Department’s watchful eye.
Though he doesn’t expect any future issues to arise, Williams reinforced the fact that each event will be judged on the merits of those that came before.
“We reserve the right to say no if there’s a good reason,” he said.