Board goes at it over alcohol policy

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Trustee Doug Essek discusses a local law related to alcohol policy with Village Attorney Dan Gard during the workshop portion of Monday’s meeting. Also pictured is Trustee Roger Britz Jr.

A local law related to alcoholic beverages for designated public gatherings in Fredonia awaits a public hearing and a vote.

Debate and tense moments were seen during the workshop portion of Monday’s village board meeting as discussion ensued over proposed alcohol policy. Specifically, the proposed law would add an exception allowing trustees by their discretion and by resolution to suspend provisions of the alcoholic beverage chapter in a designated area of the village for a public event. The board would also approve or deny, by resolution, all applications for alcohol sales under this exception and by resolution determine requirements of such applications.

A committee was formulated to examine and come to a consensus on the proposed alcohol policy. Trustees Doug Essek and Kara Christina were among the members.

Essek brought up the alcohol policy matter Monday and claimed he was being bullied over his stance against the proposed local law. Essek was contacted last week by the mayor to cosponsor the resolution, for which he declined.

“The risks outweigh the benefits,” Essek said Monday. “There’s lots of problems. I never blindsided anybody on this. I’m looking out for the entire village.

OBSERVER Photo by Jimmy McCarthy Joanne Mansfield, Festivals Fredonia chair, speaks to the Fredonia Village Board during the workshop portion of Monday’s meeting on the alcohol policy.

According to Essek, what happened next was reminiscent of what happened with the Park Grant vote when a group was assembled and browbeat himself and Trustee Phyllis Jones.

“It wasn’t a good situation,” he said. “I was told in a previous vote for the DRI (Downtown Revitalization Initiative) that I don’t have to like what the results of the vote were but had to accept it. Well guess what, this village board and village residents have to accept my decision on this here.”

Essek proceeded to state that the behavior as “eighth gradish.” Mayor Athanasia Landis responded by stating that they are his constituents.

“They have every right to contact you,” she said. “They have every right to contact you and find out what you’re doing, how you’re doing it and why.”

Trustee James Lynden told Essek that if there were questions and doubts in his mind, his committee was to provide a solution to the problem.

“You allowed it to come out of committee,” Lynden said. “You should have asked or solved issues or concerns you had before it came out of committee.”

In response, Essek said it only came out of committee because Christina asked him to either reschedule the matter or discuss it during the workshop.

Christina said later on in the workshop that committee members who examined the alcohol policy came to an understanding where they were going to move with it.

“The next thing I hear is that someone doesn’t want to move forward with it. Everyone on the committee was ready to move forward with it,” she said. “I have no idea what changed Essek’s mind. He obviously can vote in any way he sees fit. That’s his right to do so.”

Stephen Keefe, who attended the meeting representing the Italian Festival, acknowledged that a tent has been ordered for wine or beer in a segregated area that’s fenced in for the July 7 event. With the proposed law still in the air, Keefe acknowledged some concern. The odds of the board making a decision before July 7 in time for the festival to get its license secured is getting slender, he noted.

“The process to go through the state to get the license in place, I filled out the application (but) I haven’t spent a cent yet because I was in anticipation thinking that something might not work out,” he said. “The wineries that promised to be here, I’ve kind of put them on hold. The one person who was filling out a beer license here in the village, I told them don’t spend any money yet.”

While he appreciates the job the board does, Keefe acknowledged the intention of the festival isn’t to be Mardi Gras.

“Our intention was just so people could drink a glass of wine when they’re eating local food,” he said.

Trustee Roger Britz Jr. said later in the workshop that the board has to look beyond the atmosphere of having a glass of wine in the park while watching a 50s band. Britz went on to note that the village is a college town, and opening the law could open up more liability.

“Because of the nature of this law, this isn’t going to take one quick public meeting and a vote,” he said. “You have to look beyond this stuff. I’m trying to dig in a little deeper.”

For those wanting to sell alcohol during events, Village Attorney Dan Gard said they tightened the application to prevent what Britz is worried about. However, Gard said the board will adopt rules and procedures after the law is changed.

“We can’t do those things beforehand,” he said.

It’s unknown at this point when the board will consider the local law.