Thursday July 26, 2012

GREAT BARRINGTON -- The Select Board is sticking with its policy that allows the consumption of alcohol at town facilities on a conditional basis, despite opposition from several residents.

The board is standing behind a 2007 bylaw change that allows the Select Board to issue temporary liquor license permits on town-owned property. Future applications will be treated on a case-by-case basis, much as they have been in recent years.

Prior to 2007, alcohol was prohibited at town-owned facilities.

The prospect of amending the policy arose in the spring when Housatonic resident Michelle Loubert questioned the serving of alcohol at a function at the town libraries. The events were held to commemorate the libraries' centennials.

The issue raised concern with the Community Health Plans' Southern Berkshire Com munity Coalition.

At Monday's Select Board meeting, Shelley Brooks of the Community Coalition said South County youths have higher rates of alcohol abuse compared to national averages. She cited several statistics from a survey of local teens, including one that showed 30 percent of local youths had acknowledged binge-drinking within the two weeks prior to taking the survey.

"We want as adults to set a good example for our kids to show events don't have to have alcohol to have fun," said Brooks.

Holly Hamer, chairwoman of the Board of Library Trustees, said drinking at these functions has been limited. She said it can also be used as an example for responsible drinking.

Select Board members said reinforcing their commitment to the existing bylaw would still allow the board to reject a temporary license or set conditions when appropriate.

The trustees' policy and procedures ban the serving of alcohol at town libraries, though the trustees have received two temporary liquor licenses this year. Regardless, the board's decision supersedes any trustees' policies.

On Monday, Town Manager Kevin O'Donnell laid out several options, including taking steps to rescind the bylaw, though he noted, "We haven't had any problems with the liquor licenses we've granted on town property."

Selectman Stephen Bannon mentioned that in the future, the board should ensure the bartenders at these events are certified in order to avoid liability issues for the town.

To reach Trevor Jones:
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