PALMETTO -- Will the selling and drinking of alcohol soon be allowed in Palmetto's parks during city events?
That is something the Palmetto City Commission will discuss at its next workshop following a request last week from Vice Mayor Brian Williams.
In March, the Palmetto Rotary Club sent a letter to Palmetto city officials asking for "the exclusive right" to sell beer and wine from trucks at Sutton Park and "down by the river" during the July 4th celebrations. That petition was denied primarily because city codes prohibit consumption of alcoholic beverages in city parks, public streets and sidewalks.
Williams asked the commission at a June 4 meeting that the codes be reviewed and possibly amended in order to permit the club's request. The commission workshop is scheduled for June 18.
"We don't need to be totally as archaic as we have been," Williams said Thursday. "We need to have open minds."
He said the Palmetto Rotary Club is "funding mighty important things for the kids," and that the option of allowing them to sell alcohol should be explored.
In the letter to the commission signed by club President Bart Huitema and President-elect James E. Johnson II, the club offered to donate 10 percent of net proceeds after deduction of all expenses "as a sponsorship of the 2013 three-on-three basketball tournament" hosted by Palmetto High School.
The donation would be "subject to a potential increase" dependent on the success of the 2012 event, the letter stated.
Mark Barnebey, city attorney, said that if needed, the city would have to make amendments to sections in the city codes that would allow the sale and consumption of alcohol in city parks during city-sponsored events. Requests to sell alcohol might be considered on case-by-case basis, he said. The commission would also decide who is entitled to sell alcohol, either nonprofits, private businesses, or both.
"My main concern is the liability of the city," Commissioner Tambra Varnadore said Thursday.
Varnadore said she was interested in learning about the extent of the city's responsibility in case someone had an accident after
consuming alcohol at a city property. If someone is caught drinking an alcoholic beverage at a city park. police officers have the discretion of asking the person to pour out the contents or to issue a citation, said Palmetto Police Lt. Scott Tyler. He said it would be logical to assume that people would be less likely to "sneak a cooler into an event" when alcohol was being sold at the location.
In Bradenton, the sale and consumption of alcohol on city-owned property is allowed if it's a city-permitted event, like the annual Seafood Festival or the monthly Get Down Downtown celebrations, said Bradenton Police Capt. Warren Merriman. "They can drink within the permitted area based on the barricades and times," Merriman said.
In Manatee County parks, the selling, possession and consumption of alcoholic beverages is prohibited, "except where it is sold at specifically designated recreation areas where meals or lunches are also sold under county-granted concessions, or at approved special events where the permit authorizes such sale or consumption," an ordinance states.
"All we do is put our own people at a disadvantage and I'm getting a little tired of it," said Palmetto Commissioner Alan Zirkelbach during the June 4 commission meeting. "The reality is that we gotta start thinking about being part of what the overall community wants in general."
Miriam Valverde, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7024.