By RICK CURL
Of The Record Staff
The Angier Board of Commissioners passed what some are calling a controversial change to the local open container ordinance.
In a 3-0 vote, commissioners approved allowing the sale of beer and unfortified wine during events sponsored by the Town of Angier. The re-worded ordinance excludes non-town sponsored events such as the Angier Bike Fest and the Crepe Myrtle Festival. Those two events are sponsored by the Bike Fest Association and the Greater Angier Chamber of Commerce, respectively, and fall outside the guidelines in the ordinance.
According to town attorney Dan Hartzog Jr., the permit would allow the sale of beer and unfortified wine under the discretion of the town manager and under any restrictions the town manager would place on the permit.
The permit would only include public streets and could go so far as to limit the number of sales to individuals during the hours of operation.
“The intent is to prohibit someone from buying alcohol and walking outside the event,” Mr. Hartzog said. “We will have a police presence or something like that to keep it restrained to the designated areas.”
Several speakers voicing their opposition cited the cost to the town, which later interim town manager Mike McLaurin said would be deferred to the vendor along with any other associated costs to the town.
“We can do that as a negotiation point,” Mr. McLaurin said. “This is our first time doing this, so we can tweak here and we can tweak there. We will talk to the vendors about it.”
He also outlined some of the restrictions he is considering implementing on vendors. They include having the sales limited to an area separate from the rest of the event with fencing or some other form of division as well as signs posted in both English and Spanish.
Mr. McLaurin also told commissioners the ideal plan is to limit sales to two drinks per person and designating a time, sometime prior to the end of the event, as a cut off of sales. “If someone leaves the area then they’re subject to a citation from our police officers who are working the event,” he said.
There were plenty of other concerns expressed by the public in attendance. Pastor Chris Hall told commissioners the benefit to the town was unclear to him and said he believes the town sponsors events that are family friendly and are enjoyable.
While admitting he does not raise issues about the use of alcohol, he did say he felt a moral issue was present.
“I don’t get up and knock heads about it, I don’t talk about it,” he said. “But I think there is a moral issue about it. I think there is ramifications to it. I’ll be the first to tell you I’ve preached many a funeral when alcohol is the deciding factor in it. I’ve seen marriages and homes broke up because of it. I’ve seen lives broken up because of it.”
He asked commissioners to take a look beyond any economic benefit the town might receive.
“These towns that are growing are not growing just because they have these alcoholic events,” he said. “I know we want to say that’s the reason they’re growing … these towns are growing because of other stuff.”
More than one speaker urged commissioners to consider how allowing alcohol in one area could affect a family in attendance.
“If you have a section for the drinkers, does that mean daddy is going to be in one spot and the mother is going to have the kids in another spot,” said Peggy Weatherspoon. “It’s not going to be the family sitting together enjoying the fellowship, it’s something that takes away from family time.”
There were some supporters. Among them was business owner Chris Hughes who said the town is heading in a forward direction.
“Like it or not, the times we live in, there are trends that there are alcohol-related businesses that fund growth to communities, many of them that are close by us,” Mr. Hughes said. “These other communities seemed to be able to manage this. They have breweries, they have craft beer, they have things at their festivals and those towns are growing and thriving.
“There are other towns around us that do not allow that and they are drying up and withering,” he said. “I think it’s something we should definitely be considering.