2013-06-14 / Front Page

No on beer tent

By Jack Flagler
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – A summer festival at Bug Light Park to celebrate South Portland’s local businesses will take place without any alcohol served.

The South Portland Buy Local Bug Light Festival will feature local businesses selling their products in booths that line the park, as well as events such as a story hour, yoga demonstration and cut-a-thon by local hair salons.

Organizers of the festival originally planned to include a beer garden at the event in which Sea Dog Brewing Company would serve microbrews to festival attendees 21 and older.

At a workshop held in April, the South Portland City Council was split on the issue, but decided to have city staff draft an ordinance that would allow alcohol sales on city property. With that draft ordinance in hand, the council reconvened in a workshop on Monday, June 10 to revisit the topic.

Opponents of the ordinance change said the city’s parks are family areas where alcohol has no place.

Pamela Koonz Canarie of Sawyer Street asked the council to consider the viewpoint of a child growing up with an alcoholic in their family before making a decision.

“Please let them not have to worry about alcoholics in their lives consuming while in our parks,” Koonz Canarie said. “Give them a break.”

April Cohen-Tracy, president of South Portland Buy Local and a real estate agent in the city, presented the council with a list of Maine communities that allow alcohol sales on public property to show beer gardens are a growing trend.

However, former South Portland City Councilor Maxine Beecher said the city should not change its ordinance simply because of actions in other cities.

“We’re not Portland and nobody that I talk to wants to be another Portland. Let’s not think that adding alcohol to our events is going to make us a bigger, prouder, better city,” Beecher said.

Cohen-Tracy said the festival will go on and Sea Dog will be involved no matter what direction the council chose, but alcohol sales would allow the microbrewery to feature its signature product.

“We’re willing to be the guinea pig for the city and the poster child for this,” Cohen-Tracy said. “We think it’s going to be a great event and we would love the opportunity to try it.”

The council remained divided on the issue, with Councilors Patti Smith, Linda Cohen and Mayor Tom Blake in favor of changing the ordinance and Councilors Al Livingston, Melissa Linscott and Michael Pock against the change.

Although the city council does not take official votes at workshops, members often gauge their opinions to evaluate whether they should move forward on an issue.

Councilor Jerry Jalbert initially said he did not have strong feelings on the topic, although he was leaning toward opposing an ordinance change. That ordinance change would have required a simple majority of four votes, but the license approval for South Portland Buy Local would need to pass with a supermajority of five councilors.

Seeing the five votes were not present, Jalbert decided to unequivocally state his opposition to avoid further complicating the issue.

After the meeting, Cohen-Tracy said she was disappointed with the result because Sea Dog will not be able to feature its “signature” product for residents who attend the festival, but she was still looking forward to the event.

“It’s OK. We’ll still have a great festival and we’ll try again next year,” Cohen-Tracy said.

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