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Janesville could expand alcohol sales

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
November 2, 2011
— Drinking a beer at Dawson Ball Fields or a glass of wine at a function in the Janesville Senior Center could soon be reality.

Residents attending events in city parks, however, might have to stick to lemonade.


City Manager Eric Levitt included in the proposed 2012 city budget $5,000 in revenue from the sale of alcohol permits for park pavilions and the senior center and from beer sales at the Dawson Balls Fields concessions stand.


The city council discussed the issue at a recent budget study session. The council continues its study of the proposed 2012 budget Thursday.


The city already allows alcohol sales at Janesville Jets games in the ice arena, on city golf courses and in Rotary Gardens.


Shelley Slapak of the recreation department told the council her department gets many calls from people who want to rent the senior center.


“Once we tell them they cannot have alcohol or beer, most oftentimes they do walk away,” Slapak said. “We’re seeing a loss of revenue for city rental.”


Other communities allow alcohol sales with no problems, and surveys have long supported beer at the ball diamonds, Slapak said.


“Are we then going into competition as far as entertaining the team after the game and dispensing alcohol as compared to their sponsors?” Councilman George Brunner asked.


Slapak said she didn’t think that would happen.


“The general idea is that people like to come before their game, maybe have one or two drinks, play a game and move on to their sponsor if the (sponsor) is a bar establishment,” she said.


The proposal to allow beer at Dawson Ball Fields and alcohol at the senior center at this point remains in the 2012 budget.


Council members opted to talk about beer in the parks another day. The logistics of allowing one group with a permit to drink while another group a short distance away could not drink seemed problematic to some of them.


“That would say to the resident, ‘Unless you were a part of this group over here—in this rental, in this particular pavilion—you can’t bring your six pack and have a beer at your family reunion,’” Brunner said.


Under the proposal, alcohol would be restricted to park pavilions and immediate surrounding areas, Slapak said.


“It will take enforcement,” she said.


City workers already find empty beer cans in parks.


“I realize Janesville has been different than other communities,” Brunner said. “If we’re going to open it up, we need to have that discussion to be fair to all our citizens.”


Councilman Russ Steeber said he didn’t have a problem allowing alcohol in the parks with permits. Janesville allows alcoholic beverages on the golf courses, so expanding it would not be “out of whack,” he said.


“I don’t look at it as supporting alcohol use,” Steeber said. “It is an enhancement of the adult activity that could eventually draw more users into it, which would mean our subsidy goes down.


“The only problem could be the perception that someone in the pavilion paid for a permit and could drink beer while someone nearby couldn’t,” he agreed.


“It is worth the discussion to look at parks in general for pavilions, totally separate from the budget session.”


Councilman Sam Liebert agreed that conversations about equity would arise when someone who pays the city for a permit could have a beer while “10 feet away, Joe Shmoe can’t bring in a six pack and sit under a tree.”


Councilman Yuri Rashkin said the city is moving in the right direction concerning alcohol on public property.


“We were so concerned about the Jets, and it really has been, in my opinion, a non-issue,” Rashkin said. “I hope—and expect—this to be as well.”



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