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Beer to be permitted at parks in Emmitsburg

Jeremy Hauck
The Gazette

(3/20) For the first time in memory, alcohol may be legally served in Emmitsburg parks, but not just anyone can serve it.

Indeed, Emmitsburg's six elected officials set the bar high for people wanting to drink in the parks: Only people who can persuade town staff that they represent a community service-oriented nonprofit that has existed for 18 months can obtain a permit, and they must secure $1 million in insurance for the event.

The event must be a fundraiser, and if the people organizing it are expecting hundreds of people, they may have to pay for a law enforcement presence.

"I suspect it will be done only once or twice, ever," said Patrick Joy, a member of the town's Parks Commission, last week.

Joy believes the policy is "overly selective," and would apply to only a handful of town organizations. He believes the policy would exclude organizations that are not explicitly about service to the community, such as the Francis X. Elder American Legion Post No. 121, which has an alcohol-included gathering outside of town.

"I don't think they're a rowdy, disrespectful bunch," said Joy, who is not a member of the American Legion. "It'd be nice to bring them into town for that function."

Joy lobbied the Emmitsburg Board of Commissioners to hold off on passing the proposed ordinance last month so that his Parks Commission could discuss it and present its findings to the board.

The Parks Commission meeting where the ordinance was to be discussed did not obtain a quorum. Nevertheless, Joy gave the Board of Commissioners his own opinion on the ordinance before the board voted to approve it on March 2.

No one has inquired about holding an alcohol-included fundraiser yet, according to Dave Haller, town manager. But the new policy was prompted by an informal inquiry about serving alcohol in the parks for fundraisers that members of the Vigilant Hose Company No. 6 made, both Haller and Joy said.

"The Vigilant Hose Company has talked to us about it," Haller said.

Other groups that would likely be immediately eligible in Haller's opinion, include the Emmitsburg Lions Club, the Emmitsburg Volunteer Ambulance Company No. 26, and the Emmitsburg Business and Professional Association.

Organizations from anywhere — not just Emmitsburg —can use the new policy to serve alcohol in town parks, Haller said.

While the town can expect to rent the pavilion at Emmitsburg Community Park for nearly every weekend from May until October, no one has yet inquired about an alcohol permit.

People may be daunted by the requirement that they obtain $1 million in insurance, Haller believes. To that end, the town has put out the word that it will work to connect potential park renters with one-day insurance that would cost only about $1.50 per person, he said. An event for 100 people then would require about $150 to insure.

Events that might draw several hundred people will likely prompt the town to insist that event organizers pay for a law enforcement presence, according to Haller.

Emmitsburg has two parks that have pavilions: Emmitsburg Community Park, which is 53 acres, 30 of which are developed, and Memorial Park, which consists entirely of Little League baseball diamonds.

Haller sees only the community park, which typically plays host to family reunions as well as the mayor's annual barbecue and the Lions Club's annual fireworks night, as having potential for alcohol-included fundraisers.

"That's where I anticipate seeing it happen," adding that events would have to have a "beer garden setting" as opposed to a concert setting where people can carry drinks around with them.

Haller, who arrived in Emmitsburg 11 years ago, believes the town has never explicitly allowed drinking. That probably doesn't mean that no one has ever consumed alcohol in the parks, but Emmitsburg has had "good compliance" with town rules.

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