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Brookings relaxes rules on alcohol at parks

Break out the champagne and roll out the barrel.

The Brookings City Council Monday night agreed to relax its alcohol restrictions on city-owned property to allow people to bring beer and wine to concerts, toast a couple at a wedding at the Capella by the Sea and encourage events such as wine tastings.

Their decision changes an existing ordinance that had a zero-tolerance policy toward alcohol on city-owned land, notably Azalea Park. The change came after Councilor Bill Hamilton said he’d been asked why the law is so stringent — and even why it was enacted in the first place.

“It’s a moderate step,” said Mayor Ron Hedenskog. “But it’s the first step from teetotaling to allowing alcohol.”

The original law was enacted after the city denied an application to allow alcohol at a wedding in 2005. The Port of Brookings-Harbor Chamber of Commerce had regularly asked to serve alcohol at its mixers, as well. The city council at the time decided to ban alcohol altogether, citing liability issues.

Then-Mayor Pat Sherman said she would vote against any application asking to serve alcohol in the park, saying the “city has a problem with alcohol and the law would set an example” of how the city wishes to portray itself.

Proponents of the change have noted that the people who attend events in the park are not the kind that usually create problems — and the ban might even go so far as to deter people from holding events there.

The new law

The ordinance will now allow people who obtain an event permit — for concerts, chamber mixers, birthday barbecues — to bring alcohol as well. Those wishing to sell alcohol will have to receive the proper permit from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.

And it won’t cost any more than existing permit fees to reserve parts of the park.

There are caveats, however.

Those planning to merely hang out at the park with a few cans of beer or a bottle of wine will still be prohibited from doing so. And no drinking will be allowed at KidTown, the athletic fields at Azalea Park or all of Bud Cross Park, lest partiers risk a $250 fine.

Those who intend to provide alcohol at an event must also provide documentation outlining a physical perimeter where alcohol will be sold and consumed, and the police will have the authority to shut down any event that causes problems.

Any event, regardless of size, at which alcohol will be present, will have to obtain the approval of City Manager Gary Milliman and Police Chief Chris Wallace.

Councilor Kelly McClain wondered if the proposal wasn’t too limited, prohibiting a small gathering at the park for, say, a birthday party.

“Opening it wide open could mean a bunch of guys grab a bunch of beer and go to Azalea Park,” Hedenskog said. “This says alcohol is going to be allowed at permitted events only.”

The process should be no more difficult than obtaining a permit to use city-owned property, said Public Works Assistant Lauri Ziemer.

The city has a fee schedule for the park amenities including use of the band shell, the lawn area, the snack shack, restrooms, the Capella by the Sea — and variations of all of the above.

 “You do not have to reserve the park to have a picnic or barbecue there, if it’s just a small family get-together with 10 or 12 people,” she said. “What reserving (obtaining a permit) does, is guaranteeing you that spot at the park. Otherwise, you’re taking your chances (to get a spot).”

Carolyn Milliman, a docent at the Capella, said she wanted it to be “very clear” that the popular building isn’t damaged by people spilling drinks and that children and families are protected from people abusing the new rules.

“Our parks are very special,” she told the council. “We have children, we have families; we want to protect that. That really, really needs to be emphasized.”

Hedenskog doesn’t foresee this being difficult, either — although it might take some tweaking at first.

“This will work real simple with the Capella,” he said. “All you have to do is check the box that says, ‘Yeah, we’re going to have alcohol.’ We’ll figure this out as soon as a couple of people come in and say they want alcohol at their event.”

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