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Council tables beer issue

AHOSKIE – Beer or no beer; that is the question.

The Ahoskie Town Council tabled a request from the Ahoskie Jaycees here Tuesday morning during their regular monthly meeting in regards to the possibility of selling beer at this year’s Heritage Day.

Trey Byrum represented a group of Jaycees attending Tuesday’s meeting. He briefly laid out the plans for the civic organization to sell beer during Friday night’s (Oct. 6) kick-off to Ahoskie’s third annual Heritage Day celebration, planned for Saturday, Oct. 7.

The Friday night portion of Heritage Day features a live band, food and soft drinks as well as amusement rides, all capped off by a fireworks display.

No alcoholic beverages have been sold on-site during the first two Heritage Day celebrations.

However, the Ahoskie Jaycees saw this as a way to not only offer adult beverages, but to use the profits from the sale of beer to help pay for the band and the fireworks.

“It’s not like we will be promoting it (beer sales),” Byrum told Council members. “This is just an effort to offer a beverage to those who wish to partake. We see it as the same as offering a hot dog or a soft drink.”

Byrum further explained that, if allowed, the beer sales area will be in an isolated spot, away from the amusement rides where, he said, most of the children would be gathered. He said the sales area would be fenced off. Patrons would be required to present proper identification to verify legal drinking age and those patrons must wear a wristband, provided by the Jaycees, to show they are of legal age to consume beer.

Ahoskie Mayor Linda Blackburn noted this particular issue has been the topic of discussion at three recent meetings of the Heritage Day planning committee. She said the committee supported the idea of beer sales during Friday’s portion of Heritage Day.

When asked by Councilman Malcolm Copeland, Ahoskie Police Chief Troy Fitzhugh said he foresaw no problems with beer sales.

Ahoskie Town Manager Tony Hammond said he had checked into the liability issues involving the sale of alcoholic beverages at a town-sanctioned event.

“I learned that the Ahoskie Jaycees must provide their own insurance for this event, naming the town as the co-insurer,” Hammond said.

Byrum responded by saying the Jaycees would provide liability insurance.

However, not everyone was supportive of the proposal.

Councilwoman Elaine Myers voiced her opinion, saying the town was “sending the wrong signal” by allowing beer to be sold.

“If this door is opened, we’ll be faced with other groups and organizations staging other events who will want the same approval for beer sales,” Myers said.

Myers added that Heritage Day did not have to offer beer sales to be successful.

“I’ve spoken with the Watermelon Festival organizers over in Murfreesboro,” Myers said. “They don’t allow beer to be sold and just look at how successful that event has become over 20 years. I can’t support this in Ahoskie.”

In defense, Byrum said individuals would consume beer at an event, whether it’s sold there or not.

“Who do you want profiting from beer sales,” Byrum quizzed, “Trade Mart, Red Apple, Duck-Thru or by allowing us to sell it and put the profits back into Heritage Day. We feel we can control it better by serving the beer. And we are not planning to make a beer party out of this. We’re not pushing the sale of beer. We’re just providing it as a beverage of option.”

Mayor Blackburn chimed in by saying that the faith-based members of the Heritage Day planning committee had no trouble with the Jaycees request.

Councilman Ronald Gatling suggested tabling the issue until the May meeting.

“We do not have a lot of time to wait on this because we are trying to secure a band for that Friday night event,” Mayor Blackburn said.

No further discussion followed that comment and Council members moved on to their next agenda item.