LOWELL -- Alcohol consumption at the annual Mudtown Days festival may be allowed for the first time if a recently amended ordinance for park rules is passed next month.
The City Council approved amending the ordinance prohibiting alcohol consumption at the town festival. The council will consider the amended ordinance in May.
City attorney Tom Kieklak said the ordinance would permit alcoholic beverages during Mudtown Days and any other festivals, as long as they are in Ward Nail Park and sanctioned by the council. Mudtown Days is the only council-sanctioned event.
If the measure passes, only beer and wine would be permitted, according to the ordinance.
City Council members discussed at length concerns with allowing alcohol sales at the family event.
Alderman Dean Bitner said limiting which festivals can be in the city would be a "tremendous liability." Kieklak suggested listing festivals within the ordinance might add clarity or additional language for what constitutes a sanctioned festival.
Bitner advocated for the proposal and offered to do all legwork and cover all costs associated with opening and operating a beer garden for Mudtown Days. That process would include the three-week period to obtain a permit from the Alcoholic Beverage Control board, finding a sponsor, arranging volunteers, purchasing an orange fence and renting tables and chairs.
"I don't know what the city will be out, but it'll be none," Bitner said. "There will be no expense to the city and 100 percent will go right back to Mudtown Days. We have to grow this thing."
Bitner said he's spoken with several residents about the idea and not received any negative feedback. He also doesn't anticipate any problems with public intoxication.
Bitner pointed out Mudtown Days typically costs Lowell taxpayers $36,000 annually, but more than two-thirds of festival-goers are from surrounding towns. The event would benefit the city financially if the beer garden were allowed, he said.
Alderman Kendell Stucki agreed the ordinance should be amended.
"We've gone through this issues two years ago. Let's move on and not drag it through the mud again," Stucki said. He then suggested about which parts to keep from the two versions of the ordinance.
Alderman Todd Fenix worried if the council didn't take action during Tuesday's meeting the decision would have to wait until 2018. Bitner denied that and said he would apply for the permit shortly after the council meeting. If the ordinance fails in May, Bitner said he would feel the money was still worth it.
Police Chief Randy Harvey expressed concern for making arrests for public intoxication and increased chances of drunken driving. Harvey pointed out those serving an intoxicated person would be implicated in the crime too.
Mayor Eldon Long maintained he would like Mudtown Days to remain alcohol free.
"This has traditionally been a family event without alcohol of any nature," Long said. "I appreciate that it won't cost [money]. It's the other thing, it costs in family values and in our heritage. Just don't believe it takes a couple beers or glass of wine to enjoy our Mudtown festival."
Long recognized regional consensus has changed, since alcohol sales are now legal in Benton County, but hoped his city would stay true to its family values.
"I don't see the harm" in alcohol sales, Bitner said. "It's not my place to legislate morality."
Bitner noted other events, such as the recent Downtown Rogers Cruise Night, allowing kids on carnival rides while their parents enjoy a beer and barbecue while watching a performance or exhibit.
Alderman Lonnie Jones said folks in his ward have been vocal in their opposition to alcohol at Mudtown. Alderman David Adams said he didn't see the problem with alcohol sales as long as they are regulated.
"It's more inclusive," Fenix said. "Not everyone has to participate, but it's an opportunity for a growing industry to do more in our city. Every time we get more people here who see how great we handle everything, odds are more people invested in community to pay for roads and parks.
"Let's try it once, and if it falls on its face, we can undo it."
NW News on 04/19/2017
Print Headline: Alcohol sales a possibility for Mudtown Days