Council begins park alcohol sales proposal

The Columbia City Council is working on a proposal that would allow alcoholic beverages to be sold in city parks by vendors during special events and occasions.

"Special events would be determined with oversight by the City Council and other established groups," Third Ward Councilman Karl Skala said.

The proposal would allow non-profit organizations to obtain a license to sell alcohol at their events. The organization would have to submit the request 15 days before the event. The proposal states that the license would have to be approved by the Department of Parks and Recreation, Columbia Police Department and the Finance Department. Under the proposal, only $100 or 10 percent of the total profit, whichever is greater, would go to the city.

"It allows non-profit organizations to determine where the money will be spent," Skala said.

Beer is already sold at city parks with concession stands. The proposal states that alcohol could only be sold at Columbia Cosmopolitan Recreation Area, Lake of the Woods Recreation Area, Twin Lakes Recreation Area, Stephens Lake Park, Nifong Memorial Park and Flat Branch Park. On non-school days, alcohol could be sold at Oakland Park and Cosmo-Bethel Park.

"We're not talking about mass sales across every single city park," Columbia Police Department Sgt. John White said. "You can have a group gathering or function with a cash bar. I don't know if anyone will notice that there has been a change. Alcohol is sold at some city parks, like Rainbow Fields. I don't know if it will be that big of an increase of what we already have."

People can bring alcohol into the parks themselves, and there is no limit as to how much they can bring.

The proposal states that the Parks and Recreation Department's research did find "a significant amount of cities where alcohol sales were allowed under specifically defined circumstances."

"The City Council is not trying to sanction abuse, but is trying to do what lots of communities have done by providing an opportunity for those who do drink responsibly," Skala said.

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