Tahlequah Daily Press

September 12, 2013

Festival beer garden was the right move


TAHLEQUAH — The Tahlequah City Council’s approval of the consumption of low-point beer at  two-day music festival may lift eyebrows in a few quarters, but it’s a move that’s long overdue.

Ward 3 Councilor Maurice Turney, who cast the lone dissenting vote, seemed afraid the sale of beer at Norris Park during the Oct. 4-5 North End Music Festival might be the impetus for underaged drinking or drunken debauchery. His concern is understandable, but it’s hard to quantify – especially since Police Chief Nate King was the one who brought the issue to the table.

As King explained, Main Street Association Drew Haley applied for permission to sell low-point beer, which would be transported from The Branch, The Grill and Ned’s and served in a “beer garden” atmosphere. Patrons could carry their beverages in plastic cups back and forth, which would allow them to patronize both the festival and downtown businesses.

King promised councilors an increased police presence would be part of the deal, and any resolution passed would not supersede state statutes or city ordinances when it comes to intoxication, disturbing the peace, or underaged drinking.

King’s statements should have reassured Turney, but they didn’t – at least, not to the degree that Turney could support the proposal. But his constituents also understand that Turney, a devoutly religious man, may oppose drinking on principle, especially when there’s even a chance it will be done around youngsters or taken to extremes.

Other city officials are devout, too – but many people see no conflict between practicing one’s faith and drinking alcoholic beverages, at least in moderation. That group, coupled with those who have no religious or moral compunctions about drinking, constitutes a majority of residents in this county, if polls are any indication. And though some folks might not like it, the majority should rule in cases like this.

All over the country, music festivals are at the forefront of annual calendars for many cities. In almost all cases, the sale of beer is allowed; the events wouldn’t be successful without it. The time is long overdue for Tahlequah to join this ever-growing club.

Local folks who worry about the sale of beer to kids should remember the businesses will be required to check IDs of customers, just as they would do at other times. And officers will ID festival-goers who appear to be underaged.

As for people who might become intoxicated, King’s assertion that such incidents would be in the single digits seems spot-on. Most adults have to consume quite a bit of low-point beer in a short period of time to even become tipsy, and such behavior would attract the notice of police.

King and the city council have made the right decision. In fact, for future festivals, they should consider adding the higher-point craft beers and wines to the lineup. There are plenty of events here where no drinking is allowed, for folks who don’t want their kids (or themselves) around it. It’s only fair that there also be events for those who enjoy a drink or two.