Board changes course, not requiring beer gardens

Riverhead Country Fair 2014
2014’s Riverhead Country Fair. (Credit: Katharine Schroeder)

The idea of limiting alcohol consumption to beer gardens at public fairs in Riverhead has died just days after the first seed was planted.

The board said this morning that it will now take a scaled back approach to regulating alcohol at local festivals, one week after  a majority of Town Board members supported the concept.

“We should crawl before we can walk,” said Supervisor Sean Walter, who had supported requiring the beer gardens.

Get the news to come to you: like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

The Town Board agreed the town should move forward with some of Riverhead Community Awareness Program’s suggestions made last week, such as requiring wristbands for people drinking at public fairs. In addition, the board figured additional training for beer servers and more signage at the fairs promoting responsible drinking would be a good start to step up alcohol regulation.

Local nonprofit organizations allowed to sell beer at fairs, a group currently limited to just the Riverhead Rotary and the Polish Town Civic Association — could sell the wristbands for $1 a piece as an additional revenue stream, the supervisor suggested.

Last week, CAP showed the Town Board the results of a survey it had conducted with Riverhead high schoolers. It showed that in 2014, 36 percent of students reported drinking at a public event.

An application for the Polish Town Civic Fair came up on Thursday, sparking the conversation once again over what exactly to allow there.

Mr. Walter said on Thursday after the meeting that had it not been for the empirical data presented by CAP, he likely wouldn’t have supported the concept of beer gardens at fairs.

But after pushback from some businesses in town, as well as the organizations which sell beer at the fairs, the board agreed that it was going too far, too fast.

“That’s probably a great idea to ease into it,” said Mary Ellen Ellwood, chair of the Country Fair and past president of Riverhead Rotary. “That will ease a lot of the tension that got created quickly in the past week.”

Duffy Griffiths, co-owner of West Main Street’s Crooked Ladder Brewing Co., one of four breweries in town, said scaling back on the concept of beer gardens was good news, noting that the reduced regulations could be a good middle ground.

“I’m not opposed to looking at different ways of doing things,” he said. “Stricter guidelines might help.”

CAP executive director Felicia Scocozza was not at this week’s work session, but said upon hearing the news that any step to increase alcohol control at public fairs is a good one.

“Any small changes the town is willing to implement to keep these events safe and fun for everyone is a step in the right direction,” she said.

[email protected]