Puyallup City Council weighs rules on event alcohol, support

Staff writerFebruary 16, 2014 

City of Puyallup staff are working to refine criteria for concerts, fundraisers and other special events held on city property.

Of several topics discussed at a City Council meeting this week, loosening alcohol consumption standards for special events was more warmly received than the idea had been in the past.

Last spring, a new committee called the Special Event Action Team was formed to evaluate permit applications for special events in Puyallup.

Now, committee members are seeking direction from the City Council on several policy questions to streamline standards on such things as fees and noise and how the city should choose what events it sponsors.

Council members offered suggestions at a study session Tuesday, and City Manager Bill McDonald said staff would continue to review the criteria before bringing them back to the council.

Allowing alcohol consumption at special events drew mixed comments from council members.

This marked the second time in a year the issue has come up, following a request last spring to offer a beer garden at the evening farmers market in Pioneer Park. The City Council voted down that proposal.

The Legislature last year passed a law allowing farmers markets to feature wine and beer tasting under certain conditions.

Although Tuesday’s discussion did little to shift the conversation, some council members appeared open to the idea of looser alcohol consumption standards.

Councilman Tom Swanson said allowing wine tastings and beer gardens would make it easier for smaller businesses to sell their products, which he noted is the primary purpose of the farmers market.

“We do need a way of limiting that or controlling it to make sure it doesn’t become a frat party,” he said.

Councilwoman Heather Shadko agreed, emphasizing that people attend events such as car shows to focus on cars, not to sit for hours to drink.

Councilman Steve Vermillion is against changing the alcohol policy. He said expanding access to alcohol at events could also expand it to minors, one primary reason that Puyallup police are opposed to the issue.

“I like to drink a beer like the next guy,” Vermillion said, but “I’m not sure we have a good handle on the private servers in these facilities.”

Mayor John Knutsen said the city should continue to keep alcohol out of parks, emphasizing that even if wine tastings were allowed at the farmers market they must be situated off park premises — perhaps in tents on the street.

All council members agreed that would be a reasonable compromise.

CITY-SPONSORED EVENTS

Over the years, the city has provided varying levels of subsidy or sponsorship for traditional community events such as the Daffodil Festival and Meeker Days.

Puyallup has no set criteria on what type of events are city-sponsored. The city typically has limited its sponsorship to well-known annual events.

The Special Event Action Team is working to establish what types of events are eligible for city sponsorship and what benefits would be associated with it.

For an event to gain sponsorship, the committee has proposed criteria that event organizers would need to demonstrate, some of which include enhancing the community, appealing to broad audiences and generating economic benefit.

Many City Council members aren’t eager to drastically change the current process.

Knutsen said the city should avoid fixing something that he says isn’t broken.

“Personally, I would think until we get complaints that it should go on as is,” he said.

Many fellow council members agreed the traditional sponsorship model has worked, but some cautioned that having one set of standards could cater to long-running annual events while ignoring up-and-coming ones.

“We need a way for new events to come forward,” Swanson said.

Kari Plog: 253-597-8682
kari.plog@thenewstribune.com
@KariPlog

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