A debate over a proposed city ordinance allowing non-profit organizations to apply to serve alcohol at special events within the city continues to rage on.
If passed by Galion City Council, the ordinance will amend with city’s codified ordinances to allow the sale and consumption of alcohol in outdoor trading areas in the Uptowne district and community events that are hosted by a non-profit organization.
Mayor Tom O’Leary explained that the application with the city is only the first step in a non-profit organization from being allowed to serve alcohol at an event.
“The group must then apply through the state liquor control board and follow the very strict guidelines set forth in their rules. Things such as fencing, point of sale, where transactions can take place, security, are all heavily governed through that department,” he said.
Council member Susan Bean has been vocal about the fact that she supports the portion of the ordinance to allow local businesses to serve alcohol outdoors per the strict guidelines of the state liquor control board but does not approve of non-profit organizations being allowed to serve alcohol in public places such as the city’s parks.
“Our parks are for families with children. There is no place for alcohol in our city parks,” Bean said during a recent council meeting.
Former city law director and Galion resident Roberta Wade said that alcohol in the parks will change the character of the city parks.
“The schools promote an anti-smoking, anti-alcohol, anti-drugs message, and the city needs to do the same,” Wade said. “This alcohol in city parks is all about serving beer at Galion Graders games. What next, Little League and Little Sox games? This alcohol in the parks issue needs to be decided by the voters, not city council.”
Mayor Tom O’Leary’s son, Mike O’Leary, heads up the Galion Graders baseball team and was present at the city council meeting on Tuesday.
“We will have an area that is fenced in for people who want to drink alcohol during the game. They will not leave that area with alcohol. We will even be offering porta-pots in that area so no one even has to leave to use the restroom,” Mike O’Leary said.
Chris Stone, owner of the Eighteen-O-Three Taproom on Harding Way East, has said that the ordinance will not only provide the opportunity to business owners to serve alcohol outdoors, but will also offer the opportunity for non-profit organizations to apply for the sale and consumption of alcohol on public property with a heavily controlled temporary permit through the state’s division of liquor control.
“The craft beer and wine festivals you see happening in other cities are sponsored by non-profit organizations,” Chris Stone said.
Retired school teacher Marty Cecil said she has had six alcoholic drinks since 1985.
“I had a drink at each of my children’s weddings and I want others to be able to have a toast of champagne at their wedding if they have their reception at the (Galion Big Four) Depot pavilion,” Cecil said.
Adam Flick was at the last council meeting also.
“Nobody is petitioning to allow drinking at the park anytime someone wants to. They’re asking to be able to drink at the park during a two to three-hour baseball game once or twice a week in a designated area only,” Flick said.
Proponents of the issue said there are ways to limit the number of drinks a person can consume by selling drink tickets or wristbands to monitor.
Some residents are worried that people will still consume too much alcohol and drive a vehicle or come into the park around children while intoxicated.
“We have been told there will be security in place but will it be enough for one deputy or police officer to police a large group of people,” former city treasurer Paula Durbin said.
Mike O’Leary said if there are any issues, the liquor control board will not grant another temporary license to the organization that applied for the temporary permit.
The second reading of the ordinance was passed with a five to two vote by council with members Bean and Dr. Tom Fellner voting no on the issue.
The ordinance will be up to a final vote at the next council meeting at 7 p.m. on May 24.
Reach Gasuras on Twitter: @kimberlygasuras