The Riverhead Town Board could approve its proposed alcohol policy next month, setting concrete rules and guidelines for alcohol service at popular festivals such as the Polish Town Fair and the Country Fair.
At a Thursday work session, the Town Board discussed a draft version of the policy, which will likely come to a vote at either October’s first or second board meeting. That draft does allow for alcohol sales at such events, but limitations are placed on where it can be purchased and how it is served.
“This alcohol policy creates the playbook for the town to go forward when we have alcohol being served at some of these fairs,” said Town Supervisor Sean Walter.
These steps come after months of discussion sparked by the Riverhead Community Awareness program, which claimed in April that 36 percent of Riverhead High School seniors who reported drinking in the past year said they did so at a public fair or event. The draft policy discussed Thursday states its “principal goal” as “protect[ing] our underage attendees.”
In April, the Town Board considered limiting all alcohol consumption at such festivals to closed-space beer gardens — an idea that was controversial among some business owners and organizers. However, the policy’s current draft allows alcohol to be carried around so long as it is purchased at an approved vendor and stays within the event’s location.
Beer gardens are still possible, but each one must be enclosed by a three-foot-tall fence. An original version of the law proposed fencing in the entire event area to delineate where alcohol consumption is allowed, but the board struck that from the draft.
“That really can’t happen, because then we’d have to fence all of Polish Town and all of downtown Riverhead,” Mr. Walter said during the work session.
The draft limits drinks to 12-ounce servings of beer and cider and five-ounce servings of wine and champagne. All liquor and mixed drinks are forbidden from such events.
Any organizer who applies for a permit to host such a festival will now be required to provide proof that servers have received state-approved Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS, training. The application must also designate which areas will serve alcohol.
Restaurants can serve drinks if they want, but only on their property — an attendee cannot stop inside for a beer and then walk around the fair with it unless the restaurant has a special permit from the state.
“You have to have an off-premises license,” Mr. Walter said. “If you don’t have that, you need to stop people [from taking alcohol outside].”
Since August’s Polish Town Fair, Riverhead has had an informal policy requiring adults to wear wristbands as a quick proof of age. Under the draft law, that practice becomes formal.
However, despite these stipulations, the draft prohibits alcohol consumption in any town-owned playing fields and playgrounds. Other areas, such as picnic areas, are generally off-limits for alcohol except with a permit from the board.
“You can’t have any alcohol right now in any park without Town Board approval,” said Councilman Jim Wooten.
Photo Credit: Quinn Dombrowski, flickr