Beer sales in parks again debated
JANESVILLE The Janesville City Council on Monday will consider requiring background checks for people who want to buy permits to serve beer and wine at park pavilions.
The council also will decide whether to expand beer sales at Dawson Ball Fields to include adult league evening softball games.
Public hearings are scheduled on both proposals. The meeting begins at 7 p.m. Monday in City Hall, 18 N. Jackson St.
During 2013 budget discussions, the council asked recreation staff to submit proposals to expand drinking opportunities in parks and at Dawson. The leisure services committee recommends the changes because of user requests and because of projected increases in revenue.
The city already allows beer sales at the city's golf courses and at Rotary Gardens.
The council at its last meeting appeared ready to approve an ordinance allowing beer and wine at some park pavilions when councilman Sam Liebert suggested background checks for permit applicants.
The council asked leisure services staff to evaluate the suggestion.
Staff has recommended against the background checks, but the city manager suggested a limited check to flag applicants who have a drunken driving conviction within five years.
Each background check would take about 20 minutes of a deputy police chief's time and cost about $20 per applicant, according to a city memo. Staff recommends the city charge $50 for permits.
A third option would be to also check for any arrests in which alcohol was a contributing factor or citations for littering within two years.
Shelley Slapak, recreation director, said recreation staff would have to follow up with both the police department and the applicant if background checks are required.
Slapak also noted in her memo that someone wanting to rent a pavilion could avoid a background check by having somebody else apply.
The cost of conducting background checks would reduce the annual net revenue from alcohol permits by $1,000—from $3,000 to $2,000.
The proposed ordinance would allow those with permits to serve beer and wine in designated pavilions. Those pavilions would be the Hilltop Pavilion in Palmer Park, the north and south pavilions in Riverside Park and the Lions Pavilion and the warming house in Traxler Park.
The ordinance banning beer in Janesville parks was passed in 1967.
The recreation department also supports a proposal to sell beer at Dawson Fields during adult evening softball league games.
Sales would bring in about $5,000 and provide a service requested by participants, Slapak said in her memo.
The change would allow the city to remain competitive in its leagues, Slapak said. Additional revenue could lower team registration fees in future years. In addition, beer sales might attract teams to the leagues, she said.
Negative impacts of beer sales could include loss of sponsors, which often are local bars. Many sponsors expect their teams to patronize their establishments after the games, Slapak said.
A recent email survey of softball teams included three questions about alcohol sales.
When asked whether they favored beer sales at Dawson during adult softball league games, 22 respondents answered "yes" and five answered "no." All but two of the 22 said they would continue to support their sponsors at the same levels.
Several of the teams who did not favor alcohol sales play on Monday nights, when three of the four leagues are church leagues. It might be appropriate not to allow beer sales on that night, Slapak said.
The department would evaluate alcohol-related issues that might arise during the 2013 season to determine if beer sales during adult league play are warranted in future years, Slapak said.
Player responsibility and good conduct will be crucial to making beer sales work, Slapak said. Rules would include checking identification for age and limiting the amount of beer that could be purchased at one time.
No beer would be allowed on the fields, in the dugouts or in the parking lot.
Beer sales would end 30 minutes after the start of the last scheduled game.