Cape Elizabeth loosens alcohol restriction at Fort Williams Park

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CAPE ELIZABETH — In an effort to generate more money for maintenance of Fort Williams Park, the Town Council unanimously approved a request to serve alcohol at a park gathering next September.

The council’s vote on Nov. 14 amended long-standing policy that banned alcoholic beverages in the park. The new policy allows alcohol to be served at sanctioned group events.

Bill Nickerson, chairman of the Fort Williams Advisory Commission said the Maine State Troopers event scheduled for Sept. 13, 2012, will generate $3,600 in fees.

He said the event details have been discussed with Police Chief Neil Williams, and include regulations that will keep attendees in compliance with state and town laws.

Nickerson said when the revised Fort Williams Master Plan is presented to the council later this winter, there will be a request to designate a venue for receptions and company gatherings.

“I think the reality is if we are going to generate much revenue from those kinds of events, alcohol will in some way have to be able to be a part of those,” Nickerson said. “This may be the precursor to something that may become more frequent, but that is not what this (particular event) is intended to be.”

He said the Maine State Troopers Association event is “step A” and the commission will see how the alcohol policy evolves.

Town Manager Mike McGovern said the alcohol provision for groups is a pilot program in experimental stages and different from normal reservations for the park. He emphasized that alcohol will only be permitted via a group-use request and with approval from the Town Council.

But Councilors Sara Lennon and Caitlin Jordan said they could see how the requests for events and receptions could appear to be arbitrary. 

Jordan said the council denied a request for use in the park a few months ago because the details had not been worked out, but the request from the troopers association was favorably received, even though the details have not been completed.  

“You are asking us to approve the consumption of alcohol, but we haven’t laid out a criteria for who will be approved. What’s our criteria as to who to approve and who not to approve going forward?” she said. “I just want to be sure the council is putting forth a consistent face here.”  

Lennon agreed it would be helpful to determine exactly how requests will be handled in the future, “on a broad base way instead of case by case.”

When the master plan is finalized and presented to the council, Nickerson said the commission will develop criteria for using a designated event space and creating a business plan for allowable receptions, including use of alcohol.

“This sort of preempts the master plan and business plan, but is a way to generate $3,600 in the fort next September,” he said. “We are just trying to seize opportunities as they seem to be appropriate and come forward.”

Amy Anderson can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 110 or Follow her on Twitter: @amy_k_anderson.