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Amherst councilor: Allow alcohol by permit at public events



Staff Writer
Saturday, February 08, 2020

AMHERST — When the Taste of Amherst is held on the Town Common each year, locally produced beers and wines are served from a tent on the Inn on Boltwood lawn across Boltwood Avenue.

Unlike in Hadley, where the WGBY Asparagus Festival’s “beers and spears” tent and the Hadley Common Beer & Wine Garden have both become community events featuring alcoholic beverages on its Town Common, Amherst town bylaws prohibit the serving and consumption of alcohol on any town street, sidewalk and way, including parking lots, parks, school playgrounds, recreation areas and conservation areas, under all circumstances.

But that soon could be changing, if District 4 Councilor Evan Ross is able to persuade his colleagues to change the town’s open container bylaw.

Ross brought forward a petition late last month to modify the open container bylaw by allowing the Board of License Commissioners to set a process by which it would establish a way to permit alcohol service on public property.

Ross said his proposal doesn’t make the common or other parks automatically places where alcohol is served, but gives flexibility to that possibility, which is what exists in Hadley and Northampton.

“The change will make it so that our bylaw closely mirrors Hadley, and is more in line with Northampton, which has a provision in their ordinance that allows the sale and possession of alcoholic beverages in certain parks with a permit,” Ross said.

In Hadley, the restriction is always in place, “unless a permit therefor has previously been secured from the Select Board,” while in Northampton the ordinance prohibits alcohol consumption in various city owned buildings and locations “unless application has been approved by the License Commission and a license has been issued for the sale and service of alcohol.”

“Much like the Asparagus Festival or the Hadley Common Beer & Wine Garden, it will bring more visitors and residents to our public spaces for festivals, celebrations or concerts,” Ross said. “That brings more people into our downtown, and enhances the vibrancy of our community.”

District 3 Councilor Dorothy Pam said she would be in favor of such a change, observing that her that her daughter, Caroline, runs the annual Chilifest in Sunderland and has seen the importance of locally produced beers and wines to successful events.

“Decorum is observed, even though everyone is having a good time,” Pam said.

At-Large Councilor Alisa Brewer said her concern is that an adjusted bylaw would be giving all discretion to the Board of License Commissioners, which is appointed by the town manager.

Douglas Slaughter, chairman of the commission, said he expects that the commission would set constraints for the issuing of any license for use of town property.

The Town Council will deliberate the matter at its Feb. 10 meeting.