By ERICKA WERLING
An amendment to the city code that would have allowed consumption of alcohol on public property failed on a 2-3 vote at the Abilene City Commission meeting Tuesday, which invalidated a discussion with the Central Kansas Free Fair to allow beer sales during the rodeo and demolition derby.
Commissioners Kari Payne and Angie Casteel cast the votes for the amendment, with Dennis Weishaar, Brenda Finn-Bowers and Mayor John Ray casting the dissenting votes.
Weishaar said he appreciated all the emails, calls and public contacts he received about the issue.
He said the fair board treated this as solely as an economic issue.
“It certainly isn’t. There’s a social side to this, there’s a public safety side to this, and certainly, there’s been an emotional reaction throughout the community to suggestions that we allow alcohol at the fair,” he said.
Weishaar said he was for the experiment to allow alcohol during the Championship Demolition Derby Association in October of 2012. He said he thought that worked out fairly well, although it had some bumps that he thought could be smoothed out.
“I believe we need to take baby steps and show the community that we can be responsible,” he said.
“My concern with adding it to the fair is the original asking was not baby steps. I know there’s been some backing off since then, but there are other sides to this issue that I believe need to be worked out. I would much rather have another experience or two with other events outside the fair before I would consider alcohol at the fair,” he said.
The fair board had submitted a proposal for the beer garden area at grandstand events.
After the meeting, Dillner said that there was not a time limit for when the issue could be brought back before the commission.
“But based on the information here today, I think they’re going to do a couple of events not at the fair,” Dillner said.
Tim Strunk representing the Fair Board said the idea to offer alcohol was to try to increase receipts. He said revenues keep going down, and receipts have dropped the last two years.
Kevin Brown said to him the issue was a “no-brainer.” He said alcohol was allowed at the Civic Center, with no one controlling the people.
CVB Director Glenda Purkis said that the Civic Center is rented for such things as wedding receptions, where alcohol is allowed.
“We never had a problem,” she said.
An informal survey was posted by the city seeking the public’s opinion of allowing alcohol following the study session last week.
According to information, which was not discussed Tuesday, 706 people participated in the survey with 61 percent being supportive of allowing alcohol consumption on public property during the Fair. Of those supporting alcohol consumption, 20 percent were supportive only if conditions were established governing alcohol consumption. Those not supportive of allowing alcohol consumption during the Fair was 39 percent.
Those participants who were supportive, but only if certain conditions were established, were given several conditions to vote on. Participants could select as many as they agreed with:
Area of consumption limited to Abilene stadium, 38 percent
Area of consumption limited to a designated area(s) within Abilene stadium, 53 percent;
Hours of consumption limited to hours of CKFF rodeo events only, 35 percent;
Limitation on total number of beverages that may be purchased, 41 percent;
Proposal is allowed for one year as a pilot; it would be subject to discontinuation if warranted, 56 percent.
According to Dillner, other responses included such conditions as terminate sales a half-hour before events end, or no later than 10 p.m; limit cup size and charge at least $4 per cup; servers be allowed to refuse service; add demolition derby events; no outside beverages allowed through stadium entrance; and dedicated law enforcement support.