Albemarle City Council eases alcohol restrictions on public property

ALBEMARLE — As of Monday night, private businesses are now allowed to sell alcohol on public property in Albemarle if granted a special-event permit by the city.  

The Albemarle City Council, with a 6-1 vote, approved a new city ordinance and resolution that loosens alcohol restrictions. This measure was taken after a business made a request to be able to serve alcohol at a City Lake Park “Food Truck Friday” event but was denied because it wasn’t a non-profit business.  

This new ordinance will allow the city to hold more flexibility with potential vendors that receive an alcohol permit for a public event; the next Food Truck Friday is scheduled for May 7.  

“With the special use permit, I don’t think it would address people just bringing in things in a cooler,” city attorney Britt Burch said. “This is for servicing an event that would sell alcohol. The permit would still need the right approval; what we’re addressing is the larger scale.” 

The resolution that was passed in conjunction with the new resolution gives the city manager and assistant city manager the authority to approve the permits. Previously, the council had to take a vote on the individual permits that were given out.  

“This is an efficient way to approve these things without us having to call a special meeting to approve something like this,” Mayor Ronnie Michael said.  

The next topic of conversation that arose pertained to where the physical boundaries of alcohol consumption would be accepted at an event.  

“In years past, we’ve done things downtown and had a marked off garden which was the only space you could partake in. This does not address that, as I understand it,” Mayor Pro-Tem Martha Sue Hall said. “As I see it, this is only a change to allow possession, consumption and sale — all three of those things.” 

Michael mentioned that at a prior meeting, the council had eased the restrictions that prevented alcohol consumption in the streets if a special event was held downtown. Despite this, the hypothetical scenario of someone consuming alcohol at various places in City Lake Park was discussed.  

“At the Food Truck Fridays, they have it in a confined space. You don’t want people walking everywhere to the picnic shelters and all that,” Councilmember Dexter Townsend said. “Where the food trucks are at the amphitheater, I think that would be ample space.”  

Michael added that implementing individual restrictions in certain sections of an event would be tough to enforce and would be stricter than the standards granted by state law.  

Councilmember Shirley Lowder, who was the lone vote against the new ordinance and resolution, said she felt uncomfortable agreeing to any action that would ease alcohol restrictions.  

“I’ve been against any alcohol that our council might allow. I don’t know where we’re coming from and where we’re going,” Lowder said. “In the school system where I worked 35 years, we taught ‘no alcohol or drugs.’ We’re going far from that. Maybe that’s what adults are demanding, but I can’t see us putting a stamp of approval on everything they want. I just don’t see why we’re making it easier each time for our young people to see drinking.” 

The Albemarle City Council will hold its next regular meeting on May 3 at 6:30 p.m.