BERLIN — Although it nearly failed for lack of a motion, the Chamber of Commerce successfully persuaded the Town Council to approve their petition to have a beer and wine tent at this year’s Jazz and Blues Bash.
Late last year, the town passed legislation that would allow the suspension of their open container laws on a case by cases basis with the Council’s approval. The rules were put in place to bring the law prohibiting public drinking into sync with reality.
During major events it was common for people to leave the premises of some local bars carrying alcohol but enforcing the rule with so many people on hand became, in the eyes of the Council, an unneeded distraction for the police.
The test event for the open container law’s temporary suspension was to be New Year’s Eve, which came and went without incident despite attendance approaching 3,000 people.
Berlin Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Olive Mawyer told the Council that the Chamber would likely petition for a suspension for five events in the coming year — the Berlin Jazz and Blues Bash, Mayday Playday, the Berlin Fiddlers Convention and Rocktoberfest/Octoberfest weekend. It was a plan endorsed by Mayor Gee Williams.
“As long as we can keep the kind of record we have, we can keep on doing it,” he said.
Mawyer agreed, adding that the Chamber continues to learn from each event which is why the organization quotient continues to rise and the number of missteps continues to dissipate.
For example, although it is likely that the Town will suspend the open container laws on New Year’s Eve this year, the Chamber will not seek to sell alcohol.
“New Year’s Eve, it might be too much for us,” Mawyer said.
Since the number of bars and restaurants in town that stays open can sufficiently serve the crowds, and the Chamber requires volunteers to make its events run smoothly, the Chamber decided it would be best off leaving alcohol service that night to the professionals.
When Williams asked if there was a motion to approve the suspension, however, the members of the Council sat in silence, unwilling to put their names to the support of the Jazz and Blues Bash, including Councilwoman Lisa Hall, who chairs the event.
As Williams prepared to kill the request for lack of a motion, Councilwoman Paula Lynch spoke up, saying that she would make it. The measure went on to pass unanimously.
Lynch said she had questions about the Worcester County Board of Liquor Control and the state’s rules governing the purchase of alcohol. She asked Berlin Director of Community and Economic Development Michael Day to arrange a presentation better explaining the Town’s responsibilities as they relate to alcohol sales.
Day said he would arrange either a presentation or at least an informal information session for the Council.
In other news, the Town’s income budget for expected slots revenue was just under the actual amount it received as part of the local impact grant. In the 2011 calendar year the Town, which budgeted a total of $200,000, received nearly $223,000.
The money is earmarked to fund the purchase of land for a new police station and community center at the corner of Bay Street and Route 113. At Lynch’s request, the Council will firm up that commitment and possibly begin paying the debt at their next meeting.