The Danville Town Council expressed unanimous support for nine special events on Tuesday, but were divided on whether to expand the alcohol-consumption area at three upcoming downtown activities.
Council members ultimately voted 3-2 to allow legal-age attendees of the Danville d'Elegance Concours, Danville Fall Crafts Festival and Danville Summer Fest to drink alcoholic beverages outdoors anywhere within the event's perimeter, as opposed to a smaller designated area within the boundary -- as was past practice.
"We haven't had any issues at all (with alcohol at the events). We're not talking about doing it or not doing it, we're just talking about expanding the area," Councilman Newell Arnerich said Tuesday night at the Town Meeting Hall.
Vice Mayor Mike Doyle and Councilwoman Karen Stepper dissented.
"I'll go to my grave vehemently denying anybody -- I don't care if it's my mother -- (the right) to drink on my streets in my town," Doyle said. "You don't have to stroll down the street with a glass of wine to enjoy a painting, or whatever."
The alcohol-boundary issue was presented as part of the council's annual review of street closures needed to accommodate special events during the year.
As part of their requests, organizers for three events also asked the town to consider allowing alcohol consumption outside on downtown streets within the entire area bounded by the proposed street closures, in order to enhance the event-goer's experience. Previously, drinking was only allowed in specifically defined areas.
"When you corral them into a place and say, 'You have to stay here to have a glass of wine,' people are upset," said Shelby McNamara, president and CEO of the Danville Area Chamber of Commerce, which will sponsor the crafts festival Oct. 26-27 and the June 21-22 summer fest.
Town staff supported granting the requests in part because the events will occur in the daytime, they have no history of alcohol-related incidents and the sponsors have properly regulated alcohol consumption in the past, said Jill Bergman, the town's economic development manager.
"I think we have proven ourselves," McNamara added. "The chamber is putting its name on the line for this. We're going to be very careful."
Jim Edlund, Danville d'Elegance Foundation board chair, expressed similar sentiments about his organization's event.
"I gotta tell you, we've just never had a problem," he said. "I just don't see it to be a big problem. I think it will enhance the event."
The Sept. 21 Concours d'Elegance is a fundraiser -- with a car show, wine tasting and silent auction -- to benefit Parkinson's disease research and patient care.
Danville Mayor Robert Storer said his confidence in the two organizers weighed heavily in his approval vote.
"Part of my decision tonight is made based on the group that we have here in front of us, and really the good work that you've done over the years," the mayor added. "Frankly, you have proven yourself to me"
In voicing her opposition, Stepper said she thought the debate was larger than approval for three events this year, calling the proposal, "a major sea change in policy."
"For me, it's the issue of the message that we're giving to our youth. And we do have a problem. We do have a problem with youth and alcohol in this community," she said. "(I have) no problems with the activities. It's the message to our youth, and I just think it's not the right message."
The council voted 3-2 to extend the alcohol-consumption boundaries for the trio of events after first voting unanimously to approve the requested street closures.
As part of its approval, the council required the sponsors to train staff on checking driver's licenses, issue wristbands to identify eligible drinkers and operate checkpoints at event exits.
Alcohol consumption will be allowed from 11 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at the two chamber events and from 11 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. during the Concours d'Elegance.
The council plans to review the 2014 events and revisit the alcohol boundaries next year.
"To me, this trial period for a larger (drinking) area, expanding what we already have going on, I'm OK with that," Councilwoman Renee Morgan said.
The council also signed off on street closures to accommodate the Devil Mountain Run on May 4, the Independence Day parade, Danville Thursday Night Street Festivals on July 10 and Aug. 7, Hot Summer Nights car shows on July 17 and Aug. 14, the Run for Education on Oct. 12 and the downtown holiday tree lighting on Nov. 28.