Alcohol supporters hit roadblock
The push to allow alcohol in Victory Park during festivals has hit a roadblock.
On Dec. 16, the three members of the council safety committee unanimously voted against allowing the Olde Pickerington Village Jazz and Blues Ribfest to operate a beer garden in Victory Park.
The issue will appear on the Jan. 5 council agenda.
Safety Committee Chair Michael Sabatino said that while many residents contacted him to oppose allowing alcohol in the park, he received no calls from supporters of the proposal.
Opponents filled the council chambers.
Many of those who addressed the committee represented long-standing Pickerington families.
Gary Taylor spoke on behalf of his grandfather, Dr. W.B. Taylor, who along with A.J. Good, founder of the Pickerington Creamery, donated the land that became Victory Park.
Taylor argued that allowing alcohol in the park would violate the intent of the original 1942 deed.
The deed states that the park "shall be used only for recreation, religious or educational purposes" and although the statement does not specifically prohibit alcohol, the intent is there, Taylor said.
If Pickerington violates the agreement, the property reverts to the Taylor and Good heirs, per the deed.
"I am not here attempting to have the ground that was gifted given back to our family," Taylor said.
Taylor said he wanted to inform the council of the intent of his grandfather and Good when they gifted the land.
The men wished to create a "new park for the people and children of the community to enjoy," Taylor said.
Resident Oran Hoover said he thought alcohol sales in the park would not send the right message to the hundreds of teenagers who crowd the Violet Festival.
Violet Festival organizers followed the Ribfest's example and have requested permission to operate a beer tent in Victory Park.
Violet Grange president John Price said the members of his group voted to oppose allowing alcohol in the park.
Councilman Brian Wisniewski asked the crowd if anyone disapproved of the current Violet Festival arrangement in which the beer garden is located across the alley from the park.
Nobody raised a hand to disapprove.
Service Committee Member Tricia Sanders said although she previously agreed to allow beer in the park for the Ribfest, she changed her mind after residents "came out of the woodwork" urging her to reconsider.
Councilman Brian Sauer, the third service committee member, changed his vote for the same reason.
"Personally my point of view is different than the community, but it comes down to the ones I represent," Sauer said.
Keely Weaver, Ribfest president, said other Central Ohio communities such as the Creekside Festival in Gahanna allow alcohol throughout their parks without problems.
"I am not out to harm anybody," Weaver said.
The Ribfest has outgrown Columbus Street, which has limited water and electricity for vendors, Weaver said.
Unlike the Violet Festival that has rides, the Ribfest does not attract teenagers, Weaver said.
Local businesses receive a boost in sales during festivals, Weaver said.
Without the income of alcohol sales, the festivals could not exist, Weaver said.
"The worst thing for downtown is for the businesses to go vacant," Weaver said.
Weaver suggested a "plan B" for the Ribfest beer garden - placing the tent in Lockville Road in front of the Grange Hall.
The beer garden would be south of Park Alley and north of Fanchers Street to enable traffic to detour and the fire department access to their trucks, Weaver said.
Councilman Jeff Fix said it sounded like the Ribfest would not receive the support of council to sell alcohol in the park, but that Weaver should meet with Police Chief Mike Taylor to discuss the Lockville Road option.