No alcohol to be sold in parks

Residents of Columbia can take all the beer, wine and champagne they want into the city's eight largest parks, but on Monday night, more than 15 residents persuaded the City Council to vote down an ordinance that would allow the sale of alcoholic beverages in those parks.

"If we're allowing people to bring in their own alcohol to the park and consume alcohol, then it seems logical to me that under controlled circumstances, selling alcohol in a park makes some sense as well," Third Ward councilman Karl Skala said. "But I think I can support the fact that a lot of the folks have spoken. I think they have expressed their opinion to the council, and I am in fact a public servant."

The ordinance would have required private organizations and individuals to obtain a permit to sell alcohol at big events and would require the unanimous approval of the Parks and Recreation, Police, and Finance departments. The private organizations would also need to hold city and state liquor licenses, and have liability insurance of $2 million with Columbia co-insured for the event.

Heather Windham, a chairwoman for the Youth Committee Coalition and social worker, spoke against the ordinance.

"It sends the wrong message to our youth that we need to have alcohol present to enjoy ourselves as a community, and that's a very dangerous and unhealthy message to give to our young people," she said.

MU freshman Christie Puricelli said she worried parents would no longer perceive the eight parks as safe places to bring their children.

"Parents aren't going to want to bring their children to an alcohol setting," Puricelli said. "It's going to deter a lot of parents from allowing their children to go to the parks. I believe that parks are a safe haven for children and a place where they can go out and enjoy themselves."

Big Brothers Big Sisters Executive Director Georgalu Swobada said mentors in her organization are supposed to be role models for their little brothers and sisters, and should encourage them to have clean fun in places like parks.

"So how can we suggest to our bigs to take their littles to events that have alcohol if alcohol is served freely while in the parks? It hardly seems positive or responsible," Swobada said. "A child can't differentiate between dangerous alcoholic drinking and a social drink. This puts us all at an equal drinking playing field in the eyes of a child and sends very mixed messages."

Current ordinances do not explicitly prohibit the sale of alcohol in parks, but the new rules would have created a standard procedure for allowing it, city attorney Fred Boeckman said. For now, venders wishing to sell alcohol must gain special approval from the council.

Windham said the council approved selling wine once in 2006 for Art in the Park, held by the Columbia Art League.

"Mayor Hindman noted that he did not want that incident of selling wine in the parks to become precedent," Windham said. "And I strongly agree with that."

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