The days of walking around festivals like the Country Fair or the Polish Town Festival with an open beer in your hand appear to be on the way out.
At its work session on Thursday, the Riverhead Town Board heard a presentation from Riverhead Community Awareness Program’s Community Coalition for Safe and Drug-Free Youth on how to keep young people away from alcohol at large public festivals.
Citing a statistic that 36 percent of Riverhead High School seniors who reported drinking alcohol in the past year did so at a public event, the group proposed limiting the sale and consumption of alcohol at festivals to a designated area, often called a “beer garden,” rather than letting people roam around the festival with the drink, as is currently allowed.
CAP, which teaches drug and alcohol resistance in the Riverhead schools, also recommended training for people who serve alcohol in ways of recognizing intoxication, preventing sales to minors and intervening when customers are drunk.
Other suggestions included signage designating alcohol-free zones, limiting drink sizes and requiring customers at festivals to wear non-transferable wristbands indicating if they can be served alcohol.
Representatives from the Business Improvement District, the Polish Town Festival and the Country Festival were present for the discussion and didn’t put up much resistance to the idea, although Polish Town Civic Association President Tom Mielnicki said, “You’re changing the flavor of the festival.”
“We’re just trying to keep our youths safe,” said CAP executive director Felicia Scocozza.
“I think the consensus of the board is that, at these events, we’re going to require beer gardens,” said Supervisor Sean Walter.
It’s already illegal to have an open alcohol container in public, but the town traditionally waives that ban for festivals, he said.
“If people want to drink beer, they’ll go into the beer garden,” Ms. Scocozza said.
Some businesses located within festivals have also sold alcohol outdoors at festivals on their property, but that would be illegal too, Mr. Walter said.
• Also at Thursday’s work session, the board discussed new proposed zoning to allow microbreweries in some areas in downtown Riverhead, as well as proposed zoning for EPCAL, and the EPCAL bike path. A discussion planned on a motorcycle show behind the Suffolk Theater wasn’t needed, as the show was canceled.
To read a recap of News-Review reporter Tim Gannon’s live blog of the work session blog, click below and scroll down for the full meeting agenda.