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Alcohol okayed at city events

The Inverness change will start with the Thunder in the Hills powerboat races this month.

By JOHN FRANK
Published March 22, 2007


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INVERNESS - Let the good times roll and the beer flow in the city of Inverness.

Council members voted 4 to 1 on Tuesday evening to change the rules to allow alcohol sales during special events sponsored by the city.

The move comes just days before the Thunder in the Hills powerboat races on Lake Henderson and mark a change of course for key Inverness leaders who rebuffed attempts in the past to serve alcohol at the city's family-oriented events.

Local Rotary clubs organizing the second annual boat races, scheduled for the last weekend in March, pushed for the change after seeing alcohol sales work well at events like Oktoberfest in Homosassa Springs and the Manatee Festival in Crystal River.

Rotary organizer Doug Lobel said his group could raise $5,000 to $8,000 from the two-day alcohol sales. "Any money we raise goes right into the charities we support," he said.

City officials said the change wasn't designed just for the boating event. Expect to see alcohol sales at this year's Cooter Festival, as well.

Still, some council members and residents raised questions about the permitting process and the precedent change. Few were answered.

Still unclear: what events will include alcohol sales, the number of permits issued for an event and how permitted nonprofits are selected.

City Manager Frank DiGiovanni told the council not to worry about the details because the council's role is to set policy. He said city staff will implement the process, as it does in other city-sponsored events.

To allow beer at the boat races, city officials will have to make a special exception for the Rotary. The permitting policy requires the application to be completed 45 days before the event.

Also still unknown is the alcohol drinking area's site and its proximity to the city park. Right now the "beer garden" is planned for a business down the street from Liberty Park, but organizers said they are looking to move it to the old train depot, much closer to the lake.

For years, city leaders like Mayor Bob Plaisted were opposed to alcohol sales. But he changed his stand at Tuesday's meeting, saying the appropriate controls were in place.

Council member Marti Consuegra voted against the ordinance change two weeks ago but decided to vote for it Tuesday.

Council President Sophia Diaz-Fonseca was the lone dissenting vote.

John Frank can be reached at jfrank@sptimes.com or 860-7312.

[Last modified March 21, 2007, 19:45:04]


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