Havelock residents voiced opinions about a proposal to have beer sales at the Havelock Chili Festival during the Board of Commissioners meeting on Monday night.
Of the three speakers, two supported the idea, while the other opposed it.
Currently, city regulations prohibit alcohol in city parks, but Stephanie Duncan, executive director of the Havelock Chamber of Commerce that puts on the annual festival, asked commissioners about amending the rules to allow a beer garden during the event this year on Oct. 17 and 18.
The board plans to hold a formal vote on the matter during its Aug. 25 meeting but wanted to hear from the public before deciding the matter.
Inga DeRoche, who has lived in Havelock since 1962, said she supported the idea of the beer garden, which would be a confined area where beer could be sold and consumed.
“In my opinion there is absolutely nothing wrong with you having a beer garden,” DeRoche said. “I know it will be done by the law. It will be done for those who are of legal age to drink.”
No beer would be permitted outside of the garden.
“Anybody who objects is a busy body and can keep her or his opinion to himself,” DeRoche told commissioners. “Every city and every country basically has a legal beer garden. Why can’t Havelock have this one thing? It is going to be legal. I have no objection. I never drank a beer in my life because I hate the taste of it, so good luck, and enjoy your beer garden.”
Clint Jones, who has lived in Havelock for the last 15 years, opposed the idea.
“I’ve lived in Havelock a short time. I love it. It’s a great place to live. It’s a great place to raise a family. It’s a great place to go to the chili festival and enjoy some great things,” he said. “The chili fest has survived years and years without a beer garden, and anybody knows that when you add beer into a city park where there are children, they don’t mix.
“People will find ways to get more than one, two, three or four or more if they want it. Heaven forbid Friday night of that chili fest, someone stumbles out, bumps into a kid and starts a fight with another adult. I don’t want to see that, nor do I want to be that adult or have anybody else that I know that gets hurt from that, that steps away or drives away that night.”
Jones said that Havelock’s police department was good, but he feared they wouldn’t catch everyone who might leave the festival intoxicated.
“It just takes just one to slip through the cracks that hurts somebody or kills somebody. That’s all it takes,” he said.
With estimated crowds of 20,000 to 25,000, Jones predicted as many as 1,000 people could get intoxicated at the event, despite the controls.
“We don’t need this to boost the sales or boost the revenue on the festival,” Jones said. “Are these people responsible enough to handle that? … If we open that door, we open that door to a greater problem.”
Cliff Grebe, a member of the Havelock Chamber of Commerce Chili Festival Committee who has lived in Havelock for the last 24 years, was in favor of the beer garden.
“We’re in the process of trying to make this a better event and we need to try different things,” he said. “A beer garden is just another thing that we’re going to try to create a draw for people to come to it.
“The intent is not to get people intoxicated. The quantity will be limited. The size of the individual drink will be limited. It’s not like they are going to be able to go out there and have 500 beers.”
Other events in the area, Grebe said, serve beer and still retain a family atmosphere.
“The base does a beer garden when they do an air show. That’s a family event,” he said. “The seafood festival has a beer garden. That’s a family event. The Marlins baseball team has beer and that is a family event. Those are all family events. Family events can operate with beer successfully. We’d like to have that attempt to get it done.”
In other business Monday night, City Manager Frank Bottorff reported that the field of 64 candidates to fill the position of Havelock police chief had been narrowed to 22. Current Police Chief G. Wayne Cyrus has announced his intention to retire by the end of September.
No other business was conducted, and the meeting ended in just 27 minutes and 45 seconds, a record for Havelock’s quickest meeting. The old record was 58 minutes and 26 seconds set in 2013.