Performances and events at some of Columbia County's newest public venues could become a little more spirited.
Columbia County Community and Leisure Services Director Barry Smith says a recent ruling by the county attorney gives officials discretion to approve alcohol-sales permits at events at Evans Towne Center Park, Columbia County Library and Amphitheater, and Jabez Sanford Hardin Performing Arts Center without changing county codes.
Many concert-goers at the Spring Jazz Series and other events told county staffers they wanted to drink wine or beer at events at those county facilities, which led community and leisure services staffers to request that alcohol sales be permitted, he said.
"By no means are we trying to introduce alcoholic beverage consumption in recreational park facilities where children are playing recreational sports," Smith said. Alcohol cannot be served at a function during the library's operating hours, he said.
"We do not want people to bring their own, and I think that inevitably would have happened," he said. Allowing sales could make certain events more successful, he said.
A county committee recently drafted a resolution to amend an ordinance to give private residents and organizations who rent those facilities the ability to apply for a permit to serve alcohol, Smith said.
The proposed resolution was tabled by Columbia County Commission in July and returned to committee, Smith said. County attorney Doug Batchelor later told the committee that the county code governing alcohol sales - Chapter 6, Article 2, Section 6-117 - did not require the locations to be specifically added to the code, Smith said.
That ordinance states that the county commission "may permit the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink for consumption on the premises at County owned facilities under such conditions as the Board may determine from time to time."
The permitting process is the same for those facilities as it is for Savannah Rapids Pavilion and the Bessie Thomas and Eubanks Blanchard community centers, Smith said. Before the county attorney's ruling, those were the only county facilities where alcohol was allowed.
Alcohol sales at an event such as the CITGO Bassmasters fishing tournament at Wildwood Park would require the approval of the county commission, said Sandy Boner, the Savannah Rapids Pavilion manager, who handles facility rentals.
The state requires law enforcement, at the expense of organizers, to be on hand at events where alcohol is served, Boner said. Before a permit is issued, a state alcohol license is required by the entity serving alcohol.
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