Alcohol ban lifted at Oak Harbor parks

A prohibition against alcohol has been lifted for two Oak Harbor parks, but city leaders created some pretty high hurdles for any group interested in holding a wine or beer garden to jump over.

At the request of residents and event organizers, Councilwoman Tara Hizon proposed earlier this year to loosen city code to allow vendors and concession in city parks, as well as the sale of alcohol during special events in certain parks.

Last week, the council approved an ordinance that updates the park code and allows vendors in designated areas of Windjammer and Catalina parks to run beer or wine gardens during special events.

The change, however, is only effective for a year-long “trial run” which the council can make permanent if there’s not any problems. And prospective vendors would have to apply and obtain permission from the City Council to hold a beer or wine garden.

People on both sides of the issue spoke at the council meeting.

JoAnn Hellmann, director of the Impaired Driving Impact Panel, argued that the code change is a bad idea because it may lead to drinking and driving. She said the safety of citizens should be a higher priority than “alcohol-fueled fun.”

Sandi Peterson, a council candidate, said she was against the measure because of the message it would send to children, which is that “they have to have alcohol to have fun at an event.”

Jason Tritt of Flyers Restaurant pointed out that vendors run beer gardens on city streets during special events without any problems. He said all the communities surrounding Oak Harbor allow alcohol to be sold in parks for special events.

Hizon pointed out that the police chief said it’s easier for officers to enforce liquor laws in outdoor beer gardens, as opposed to bars.

Councilman Jim Campbell said he didn’t hear any reasons for the change that resonated with him. He said “one of the worst reasons to do something” is because everyone else is.

In the end, only Campbell voted against the ordinance.


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