City nearly closes the beer tap for Stacy Daze

Stacy Lions Club representatives Jerry Schroeder and Dan Eberle are working on obtaining the necessary permissions for Stacy residents to down a few brews during Stacy Daze, Aug. 1-3. The Lions presented their plan for a beer garden in Lions Park.

Schroeder explained the beer garden boundaries, outlining an area encompassing nearly one side of Lions Park. The Lions have arranged for patrols around the cordoned-off area. The entry and exit will be controlled, and signage will be posted reading “No alcohol outside this area.”

Mayor Mark Utecht surveyed the diagram and said, “The only question I’ve got is if the state will allow that big a premises for a function.”

City Attorney Peter Grundhoefer answered that he is unaware of any restrictions on size set by the state. The major function is to contain those consuming alcohol to the area. He asked about use of identification bracelets to flag those attendees who may legally buy and consume alcohol. The Lions confirmed their plan is to use identification bracelets that will be purchased inside the beer garden at a ticket booth where identification and proof of legal drinking age will be required. Grundhoefer also requested to see the legal agreement between the city and the Lions regarding insurance on this property.

“Why the whole park?” Councilor Jim Ness asked. Ness said he had heard complaints from people who didn’t want to expose their kids to drinking. Schroeder explained the Lions Club members were approached last year by Stacy Daze revelers who wanted to take their beer around the park in order to visit with friends at the event.

Councilor Chuck Lucia wondered why at the Minnesota State Fair a person can buy a beer and walk around freely, but not in Stacy. City Attorney Grundhoefer described the difference with the state fairgrounds being “totally fenced in” and the municipality where the fairgrounds stand requires employment of police officers to patrol both the fairgrounds and the perimeter.

Lions member Jim Berneche chimed in, reminding the council the beer garden was devised at their request.

Utecht corrected Berneche saying, “It was by requirement of the state.”

Berneche’s experience from last year was the Lions hearing complaints from adults who brought their children to Stacy Daze, and then were unable to relax and have a beer because children shouldn’t be in the beer garden and parents couldn’t leave the beer garden with their beverage.

“We’ve never had a problem with anybody in the park,” Berneche said.

Berneche added that the majority of the beer sales are after 8 p.m., and during Stacy Daze 2013, the Lions lost $5,000 on beer sales because people didn’t want to buy a beer if they couldn’t walk around with it. Stacy elder statesman and Lion Clete Bracht validated the lack of sales and the complaints of unhappy people confined to the beer garden.

Lucia said the city cannot control underage drinking. He recalled that some underage kids were caught handing beer over the fence to their friends. Lucia addressed his colleagues: “Let them (the Stacy Lions) do what they want to do.”

The council weighed the appeal of Stacy Daze as a family event or as an adult event. Councilor Cindy Bruss, a grandmother who attends with her grandchildren, pragmatically said she understood, “People want to walk around with their kids and a beer.”

“I am sure this is not a new law; how come it’s an issue now after the last few years?” Bracht asked.

Utecht apologized. He said it was only in the last few years he became aware of the law, and now the city must follow it.

“So if you want to put a target on someone’s back, put it on mine,” the mayor said.

Schroeder said he didn’t see drinking at the event as much of an issue.

“It’s just something for the public, everybody — they can still come to the park — they don’t need to go near the beer,” Schroder said.

He added, “People allow their kids to be in bars around alcohol, and I don’t see the difference in what we’re doing in the park for one day.”

Ness again disagreed. Utecht, Bruss and Lucia agreed with the Lions.

“So long as there is enough security, there should be no problem,” Bracht promised. The Lions Club shared that they have enlisted Stacy-Lent firefighters to serve as security.

“There will be a lot more security than last year,” Eberle said.

“It’s no different from the Firehouse Bash; you do that, you’re within the limit of the law,” a Stacy Lion said.

Ness shrugged.

“My opinion is controlling the alcohol is going to be up to you guys,” he said.

Utecht, trying to calm the discussion, reiterated the requirement for the designated beer garden is state law, not the council’s decision. He reasoned that at the Chisago County fair people may walk around with beer. Utecht sought clarification on if the requirement is simply the fencing. He asked the council to work with the Lions to establish satisfactorily what is allowed and how they can succeed. He also asked for clarification as to whether or not anyone with an underage child may be allowed in to purchase a beer, or may be allowed to walk freely around the premises with a beer and a child.

“As far as not allowing children in the beer garden, I don’t know if that is a part of the statute or not,” Utecht said. “We just need to do some investigation and see what is allowed. As long as it is allowed by law, you ought to be able to do it.” The motion to authorize the beer garden went to vote and ultimately carried unanimously.

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