A proposal to allow special public events with alcohol at a few select city properties cleared its first reading by the Kalispell City Council on Monday.
Several amendments were made to the policy, which comes up for a final reading on June 3.
The ordinance offers permits for events with alcohol at Depot Park, the enclosed hockey rink area at Woodland Park, and Lakers Fields. It also opens up the grounds at Hockaday Museum of Art, Conrad Mansion and Museum at Central School for such events — locations where alcohol is allowed indoors already.
Not-for-profit groups can apply for permits to hold events with alcohol in city streets and right-of-way, but only in a commercial district. They also can apply for seasonal permits for up to four months for recurring events at one location.
Council members opted to restrict those seasonal permits to commercial districts for fear of allowing regular beer or wine concession sales during youth sports events at the hockey rink or Lakers Fields.
“I don’t have a problem if [alcohol is] sold at Lakers Field or at the hockey rink as long as it’s not at a youth tournament,” council member Kari Gabriel said. “The part where I’m having a real issue is that we would sell it at a kids’ baseball game or at a kids’ hockey tournament.”
Under the ordinance, permit applications must be submitted to the city manager at least three weeks before an event. They are then reviewed and sent with a recommendation to the city council, which has final say on whether a permit is approved.
Event organizers must buy insurance to protect the city from liability. Other precautions call for areas with alcohol sales and consumption to be adequately supervised and controlled.
“Approval is not automatic,” council member Randy Kenyon said. “If it meets our standards, we approve it. If it doesn’t, we don’t. Or if an issue comes up, the next time they ask we turn them down.”
Several council members brought up past cases where ordinances apparently were not followed or enforced.
The Lakers held an event with alcohol at their fields without permission from the city. The organization approached the City Council and saw initial support for its event but it was never approved through official channels.
“They thought they had permission,” City Attorney Charlie Harball said about that event. “They got a permit from the state, the insurance rider and everything. They did everything they thought they had to do, when legislation had not been changed. There was not any wickedness to it, it just happened that way.”
ThursdayFest, the summer festival on Third Street East, has been allowing alcohol on city streets and right-of-way and not limiting it to private property as the city requires presently. There was no immediate answer when council member Jim Atkinson asked how the event was getting away with that.
“The ordinance says not on public streets or right-of-way, so if it was done before it was an encroachment of our ordinances,” City Manager Doug Russell said.
Mayor Tammi Fisher added: “Which several people on this council probably encroached on our ordinances.”
The ordinance passed its first reading 7-1. Bob Hafferman voted against it. Jeff Zauner was not present.
“I think this whole thing has got completely out of control,” Hafferman said. He added that he would not support any event with alcohol in Depot Park or in other parks during the summer and that groups are free to hold fundraisers with alcohol in hotels and other businesses.
“God knows I love beer as much as everybody else, but there is a time and place for everything,” Hafferman said. “Bars are where alcohol is to be served and it’s regulated by the state. And only on very special occasions should the city get involved in having alcohol on city property.”
A proposed amendment not to allow events with alcohol at Depot Park, Lakers Fields and Kalispell City Airport failed 5-3. It was supported by Hafferman, Atkinson and Wayne Saverud. Events with beer or wine consumption — but not sales — presently are allowed at the city’s airport.
Joe Apple was the only Kalispell resident to speak against the ordinance on Monday.
“Our departing Judge Curtis mentioned that alcohol played a major role in cases she saw. And here you are considering relaxing rules and regulations on where alcohol can be consumed, allowing it in parks, at ball fields,” Apple said. “Even if there are controls in place, the thing you’re not looking at is what happens when people drive away from these events. I just want to voice my strong disapproval of this ordinance.”
A COMPANION resolution setting fees for the special public event permits passed with an 8-0 vote.
It keeps a $100 parade fee and $50 barricade fee already in place fee and implements a $100 solid waste removal fee and a $100 refundable damage deposit. The deposit could be used to cover minor damages without having to file an insurance claim.
Reporter Tom Lotshaw may be reached at 758-4483 or by email at email@example.com.