POINT PLEASANT — Though the vote wasn’t unanimous, an overwhelming majority pushed through the so called “beer ordinance” which went before Point Pleasant City Council on Monday night. The ordinance allows for the sale of beer at public events in a designated area, if event promoters choose to apply for the permit and meet the city’s permit requirements.
The vote took place following a public hearing held prior to the council meeting, allowing for council to consider comments from the public. Voicing concerns about the ordinance at the hearing, were Joanne Durst, David Washington and former City Councilwoman Leota Sang. Speaking in support of the ordinance were Nathan Wedge, Alissa Roush, Cody Greathouse and Kevin Fooce.
Once the second reading for the ordinance was placed before council, prior to the vote, a discussion period ensued during the actual council meeting regarding what those gathered felt were both the pros and cons of the proposal which focused on allowing the sale of craft beer at festivals by event planners which meet the requirements of the ordinance.
Alissa Roush addressed council, saying she considered herself a Christian and though she does occassionally have a drink, she wasn’t addicted to alcohol. In addition, she said she had traveled “hours upon hours” to festivals where craft beer was served, spending money for food and lodging, etc. in other communities.
“I would love to bring more people to our beautiful town to show them everything we have to offer,” Roush said.
Adding to Roush’s comments was Cody Greathouse, who said he had “grown up in church,” led Bible studies and considered himself a Christian.
“I still feel like this could bring great business to our town,” Greathouse said. “The festivals that I’ve been to rake in a lot of money, not just toward beer but just bringing people here.”
Greathouse specifically talked about his positive experience at last year’s River Rat Beer and Music Festival in Gallipolis, Ohio where craft beer was served and live music performed. He said, he saw “no difference” between going to a restaurant and having a beer or being around beer and having a beer, or being around beer, at a festival where it was also regulated.
“This is a decision that could benefit our hometown,” he said.
Kevin Fooce then spoke in support of the ordinance, saying he also travels to concerts and festivals often at other locations, some of which also sell beer.
“I don’t think I’ve ever seen anybody falling down drunk, or throwing up on peole at the events I attended,” he said. “But, the events I attend tend to be events bringing in travelers that are not there to get drunk, they’re there to enjoy a show or enjoy some kind of entertainment, maybe go for a bike ride. But generally, nobody ever has any problems with these people.”
Fooce said he also spends money at these events and “I assume if we get these people here, they would spend money here” and not just at the event. He added, he “drinks maybe five beers a year” so his support of the ordinance wasn’t about beer for him but about attracting people to the area. “I think it’s (the ordinance) a good way to grow the town and that’s the bottom line.”
Councilman Gabe Roush then addressed those gathered, adding, “I think we all understood this would be a controversial issue when we first were approached about this and considered an idea such as this, and it was something we took a very in-depth look at. And, looking around at our surrounding communities that share in the same struggles that we have but yet have had not any problem in this type of scenario, I just find it hard pressed not to consider something like this and that’s why we really, really moved forward in looking at this. And I totally respect and understand the concerns in terms of safety and what not, but I really think that we put together a good (ordinance) to address all these issues, so when someone does apply (for the permit to serve beer) we can take a look and if we see something that doesn’t look safe, that will be addressed,” or as Gabe put it, the permit would be denied.
“I feel like we’ve drawn together something that protects the public safety and still allows for something new and progressive and outside the box for our town and I understand that there’s been poor experiences in the past,” Gabe added, referencing a time when beer had been consumed during the Point Pleasant Regatta, around 25 years ago.
“At that last experience, there was truly a lapse of regulation and enforcement from what I understand…and I feel like doing something like this in the proper manner keeps us from going down that same road that nobody wants to go down, nobody here wants that type of environment in our town. We really worked hard on this so that the people that don’t want to be around it can still attend events and still not be around it. What we’ve written up is not a ‘free for all,’” he explained, adding, he felt it was an ordinance heavily regulated compared to similar ordinances in nearby towns. “Even though we may disagree, there are steps being made to do this properly.”
Councilwoman Olivia Warner said “I think our council is trying hard to think of any possible way to bring people to the city. I personally am not a big drinker and you probably won’t see me in the beer tent but that doesn’t mean I don’t support it (the ordinance).”
Sang then questioned moving forward with the ordinance based solely upon the revenue aspect.
“So is all of this to do with revenue?” She asked.
“I think that’s a byproduct, but it’s more or a recreational attempt because that’s the way other municipalities have tackled the issue,” Roush said.
“Other?” Sang said. “You know…we’ve always taught our kids, just because someone else is doing something doesn’t mean we have to do it.”
Warner said the revenue aspect was a low priority for her, explaining what appealed to her about the byproduct of the ordinance was giving something new that worked in other places a chance to work and draw people to Point Pleasant.
Wedge then spoke, “Mrs. Sang, I know you said we shouldn’t always follow in other people’s footsteps but what we’ve been doing for the last 50 years hasn’t been working. People are leaving this community, I have friends who are moving to Charlotte or Columbus to go do these things, and to go find things to do and are taking their families with them. If we don’t continue to grow and cater to the younger generation right here in our area, they will leave and in 20 years our kids, my kids, won’t be here. They won’t be back. Point Pleasant will be a ghost town in 20 years if we keep doing what we’re doing.”
“I can’t see where this is going to boost us and keep our kids here,” Sang said.
Councilwoman Jerrie Howard said she hoped those in attendance had read the ordinance, stating it is not that different from the existing ordinance.
“The only thing it adds is that we add this designated area to serve beer during a festival,” Howard said. “It is still illegal in Point Pleasant to have public drunkenness….if someone goes to this (designated) area (at an event) and staggers into it, they won’t get served, if they stagger out of it, there will be police there and they will be arrested.”
Howard then talked about the craft beer industry in other cities and how it is attracting tourists to towns, big and small.
“By the way, craft beer is much more expensive than regular beer so you better have some money in your pocket…people will come to sample it…they go to Pomeroy (Ohio) to sample it,” she added. “I think it will be a draw and I think it will be good for business and we are interested in business, if we don’t have business we’re not going to have anything in Point Pleasant.
“I think Main Street looks great right now,” Sang said about the direction the city was moving in without the ordinance.
Councilwoman Janet Hartley said, “Yes, thank God, Main Street is booming. I’m thankful…I’m looking at people in their thirties and forties, they’re down there and they’re trying, they’re trying to bring it back. That’s the first time I’ve seen it in my lifetime. I remember G.C. Murphy, I remember O.J. Morrison, I was there. I’d love to see that again. I go down there and I support these young people. I buy in their stores and I care about them staying here. I want them to be responsible and I think every one of them are and I think I want to do my part. I am for it (the ordinance). Because I think that they are responsible and I think it’s worth a try and if it’s a disaster then we won’t do it again, but these young people are trying to bring, finally bring, Main Street back and I’m going to support them in any way I can until they prove me wrong.”
Howard said the city already has two restaurants that serve beer downtown and those would also be open during most of the festivals. Sang asked, if beer was already available in restaurants, why did it need to be anywhere else, served outside of those establishments during festivals?
After the discussion, council members passed the ordinance 8-2, with council persons Hartley, Charles Towner, Elizabeth Jones, Howard, Roush, Leigh Ann Shepard, Warner and Brad Deal voting for the ordinance and council persons Elaine Hunt and Rick Simpkins voting against it.
Beth Sergent is editor of Ohio Valley Publishing.