Will beer be sold at Sugar Festival?

“I’m very pleased with the changes, however, some may be too many too fast. Having alcohol in the mix may open us up to unwanted problems,” wrote Commissioner Kristine Petersen in a letter read by City Manager Al Perry at Monday’s regular commission meeting.

Commissioner Petersen, who was absent from the meeting, wrote to voice her concerns about an ordinance amendment that would allow for the sale and consumption of beer and wine at the 2016 Sugar Festival.

Commissioners spoke for the better part of an hour about the ordinance amendment at their workshop held the Thursday before Monday’s regular meeting.

The Sugar Festival Committee offered answers to their questions, including the city’s liability and how to control how, where and to whom it is sold.

The Sugar Festival Committee would be the entity selling the beer and wine and would be obtaining a license to sell it at the event. The committee would name the city as an additional insured on the liability policy.

Where the beer and wine would be sold within the festival grounds is still up in the air. The committee has talked about setting up a Biergarten, so the alcohol would be contained to one area; or a beer and wine trailer would be set up and patrons could walk to entire festival grounds (except for the Kids Park) with their alcohol. Patrons would need to purchase tickets and obtain a wristband in order to buy any alcohol.

Currently, the Clewiston Police Department and Hendry County Sheriff’s Office would provide enough officers for the projected number of festival goers even with alcohol present. That number is about 24 officers per 12,000 people. The commission, however, is most worried about the safety of others at the event with alcohol being consumed.

“We could be opening up a can of worms, or it could be a beautiful thing,” said Commissioner Julio Rodriguez at Thursday’s workshop.

It was also mentioned that, traditionally, residents have brought coolers of alcohol into the park, which they consumed relatively peacefully on the lawn during the performances. If alcohol is sold during the festival, a cooler ban may be imposed. However, one resident present at Monday’s meeting said a ban on coolers would take away the family feel of the event, and coolers aren’t always filled with alcohol, she said.

Commissioners voted 3-1 to amend the city’s ordinance to allow the sale of alcohol at this year’s Sugar Festival; Commissioner Sherida Ridgdill voted nay and Commissioner Petersen was not present to vote.

Monday was the first reading of the ordinance, which will move to a public hearing to be held at the next regular meeting on Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. in the commission chambers at Clewiston City Hall.

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