Alcohol at Dawson, senior center to be discussed

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Saturday, March 10, 2012
— The Janesville City Council votes Monday whether to allow beer and wine coolers during adult ball games at Dawson Ball Fields and alcohol at the senior center when it is rented for private events.

Not all of them agree.

The city should trust adults to act their age, one council member said.

But another worries about encouraging Wisconsin's "culture of alcohol."

A public hearing will be held before the vote.

Janesville has gradually opened some of its parks to alcoholic beverages: first the golf courses and Rotary Gardens and more recently the ice arena during Jets games.

Recreation staff recommend the council approve the changes on a trial basis.

"Certainly, we have our reservations as well," said Shelley Slapak, acting recreation director. "We want everyone to be responsible. Our main priority is providing a quality softball program."

Most cities allow alcohol at ball games, and whether beer is served is a common question staff get from people interested in joining leagues.

In a 2010 survey of 77 softball team managers, 83 percent favored beer sales at Dawson Ball Fields, Slapak said.

Some negative comments have come from church league members and bar owners who want players to patronize their sponsors, she said.

"We are concerned that bar owners might not sponsor as many teams as in the past," she said.

But Slapak doesn't believe players will hang around the fields long after their games. Some might come early and have a beer and then one after, she said.

Ninety-two percent of the team managers who responded to the survey said they would continue to patronize their sponsors.

Slapak doesn't believe the increase in revenue at Dawson would be much.

The city receives 15 percent of gross revenues from its contracted concessionary at Dawson.

The city might be able to attract more tournaments, but Slapak doesn't encourage them now because the recreation department doesn't have the people to staff them, she said.

The senior center has more potential for revenue.

"I view the senior center as kind of a gem," Slapak said.

Most people don't know it has a room with a capacity for 150, a view of the river and a commercial–grade kitchen.

But when people inquire about renting it for family reunions or birthday parties, they call somewhere else when they are told they can't have beer or wine, Slapak said.

The facility would not be rented during programmed senior use.

During budget discussions last year, city staff suggested drinking permits be issued for residents who want to rent park pavilions. They also asked that alcoholic beverages be allowed at the Main Street Entertainment series.

Slapak estimated then that additional revenue raised by allowing drinking in parks and city facilities could be about $3,800.

"We're in the minority in terms of allowing drinking in parks, not only by permit but just in general," Slapak said.

The council deferred those issues until a later time.

Councilman Sam Liebert said he sees both sides of the issue, including the potential for revenue, but he believes the money wouldn't be much and mostly would come from the senior center.

He noted the lack of problems since the city allowed beer and wine coolers to be sold during Jets games at the ice arena.

But Liebert said statistics back up concerns about the "culture of alcohol" that seems to permeate Wisconsin and Rock County.

"I think it can sometimes send a bad message to our youth," he said. "We have a big problem with drunk driving.

"I just don't think these are the priorities of issues we should be focusing on when the state and the country is in a recession," he said.

Councilman Russ Steeber disagreed. He doesn't have a problem with allowing adults to enjoy adult beverages in adult settings, he said.

Steeber said he understands the issues involving drugs and minors, but just because adults drink at a game doesn't mean that's appropriate for minors.

"We're saying, 'It's an adult function,'" Steeber said. "This is one of those incidents where you say, 'You're responsible adults, we're going to let you act like adults.'"

If an adult wants to have a beer during a ball game, "Wherein lies the problem?" Steeber asked.

"I think sometimes that we worry too much about what the outcome is going to be—the perception rather than reality. I've always been the type of person who says, 'Why don't we try it?' We can always reel it back in if it becomes problematic."


The Janesville City Council will meet at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St. An informal listening session with some or all council members will begin at 6 p.m.

Items on the agenda include:

-- A public hearing on two ordinances, both of which would change regular the when alcohol could be sold at liquor stores. New state statutes allow liquor stores to sell beer from 6 a.m. to midnight and liquor from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The city allows beer sales from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. but does not address liquor. As a result, Janesville allows liquor to be sold from 6 a.m. through 9 p.m. but beer from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. Councilmen Yuri Rashkin and Sam Liebert several meetings ago suggested that Janesville be more restrictive than the state and proposed an ordinance that set hours from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. for all alcohol. But other council members proposed two new possible ordinances: one to mirror state law that automatically changes when state law changes and one that restricts the sales of all alcohol from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

-- A presentation on procedures to manage the wheeled carts that will be given to households when the city goes to automated garbage pickup later this year.

Last updated: 7:59 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012

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