Do beer and chili go together?
A majority of the Havelock Board of Commissioners may believe so.
On Monday night, the board gave a tentative go-ahead to the Havelock Chamber of Commerce to add a beer garden to this year’s Havelock Chili Festival, which is scheduled for Oct. 17 and 18.
Under the proposal, beer would be sold from 5 to 9 p.m. Oct. 17 and from noon to 4 p.m. Oct. 18 from an enclosure sealed off by a double fence and observed by age- and behavior-checking attendees.
Commissioners Jim Stuart and George Liner were behind the idea, while commissioners Brenda Wilson and Danny Walsh said they wanted more information and to hear from the public.
Commissioner Karen Lewis was against the idea.
“On a personal level, I don’t advocate drinking,” Lewis said. “I teach my children not to do that. I teach my grandchildren not to do that. What would I be saying to them if I tell the entire city of Havelock if I vote to allow drinking in the city park? I personally just can’t do it.”
Mayor Will Lewis said the board is likely to hear some opposition.
“There are going to be folks that aren’t going to like the fact that we’re selling alcohol at the chili festival,” he said.
Stephanie Duncan, executive director of the Havelock Chamber of Commerce, which puts on the chili festival each year as a fundraiser, said the festival committee had put a lot of thought into the idea.
“We are confident in our plan. Our goal is to have a better chili festival,” she told commissioners during her presentation at Monday night’s meeting.
The Havelock Chili Festival is the city’s largest annual festival going back more than 32 years. It draws tens of thousands of people and is held at Walter B. Jones Park near city hall.
Liner questioned if current ordinances that prohibit alcohol in city parks could be amended in time for this year’s event.
Mayor Lewis said he believed it was possible since a public hearing was not required, though he said he still wanted to hear from the public on the issue.
In her presentation to the board, Duncan said the beer garden would be located near the stage at the festival and would be a single site with controlled access for adults only.
She said that the idea came from guests at previous chili festivals who wondered why beer wasn’t available.
“The Havelock Chili Festival Committee feels this is a way to grow our festival,” Duncan said, adding that the festival has raised $41,000 over the past six years for various charities.
She said the fenced enclosure would have a single entry and exit point with identifications checked and security, including a Havelock police officer, in attendance at all times.
No money would be exchanged at the drink counter, but tickets would be used instead.
The chamber would partner with RA Jeffrey’s, which will set up the same trailer as was used at the U.S. Open golf tournament to dispense alcohol. Duncan said the company has previously served beer at the Cherry Point Air Show.
“If the base does it without any problems, I would think we can handle it,” Walsh said.
Walsh suggested that a two- or three-beer limit might be a good idea, along with having Breathalyzers available.
Liner said that if things got out of hand, the offering could be curtailed.
“Saturday may not happen,” Liner said. “If something happens Friday night, then we’re going to close it down.”
Mayor Lewis said the plan should at least be considered.
“I think we would be doing a disservice to the city of Havelock if we did just write it off and not look into it,” he said.
In other business Monday night, the board:
-- agreed to allow the Havelock Fire and Rescue Department to apply for a community grant for $5,000 through the Heart Rescue Project to get more Automatic External Defibrillators.
-- agreed to purchase four VIPER radios with funding from the Office of Emergency Medical Services. The radios work off a different frequency and bandwidth than other radios. Use of them was prompted after Sept. 11, 2001, when regular emergency medical channels were not sufficient.
-- declined to spend $14,000 extra dollars for five exterior lights around the new city hall to match those placed at the new Slocum Creek Bridge.