According to Ordinance number §93.06 PROHIBITED CONDUCT WITHIN PARK Section A –
“No person in a park shall: (A) Bring alcoholic beverages, illegal drugs, beer or wine into a park; or be under the influence of intoxicating liquor, beer, wine or illegal drugs in a park; nor shall anyone consume the same in a public park except where appropriate ABC permits have been issued to an organization in connection with any outdoor festival or event of a national, state or local significance; and additionally, where appropriate park use permit containing a provision concerning the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages has been approved by the Town Board of Commissioners. (’72 Code, § 14A-4-1)”
On August 8, 2016 the Board approved a ordinance allowing beer and wine to be sold during Pawsitively Matthews which is held in November and is sponsored by the Chair of the Economic Development Advisory Committee of Matthews. During the Board of Commissioners meeting Commissioner Whitley concerns were “Matthews is becoming too focused on beer and wine” he also noted “he has seen what alcohol can do to families” Commissioner Urban noted “he understood Mr. Whitley’s concerns but this type of activity helps promote events for citizens, business and families” Now granted the proceeds received go to non-profits, but I am not quite sure selling beer and wine is the best way to raise funds. Do you think MADD or AA would agree? The claim is because Pawsitively Matthews is held during the day from 10:00am – 4:00pm there would be town involvement and multiple police officers. I think our police department currently has enough on their hands and do we really need to be encouraging drinking at a pet event?
On October 10, 2016 the Red Brick Partnership (which is host to First Thursday) requested the use of “Town-owned” property for the sell of beer and wine. This property is right smack in the middle of Town and because it is “Town-owned” this could open the door for a lawsuit should something happen. Being so the Town recommended a condition that the Red Brick Partnership name the Town of Matthews as an insured party on their public liability insurance policy. During the Board of Commissioners meeting Commissioner Whitley asked “if Mathews really wants to be recognized as a beer and wine destination. Matthews is a family-oriented town but people keep coming and asking for more ways to drink.” FYI, Belmont has already been down this road and the locals refer to Belmont as BEERmont. Commissioner Urban who is a member of the Red Brick Partnership noted “The goal of the event is always an all ages orientation with different types of activities but it’s also subject to market considerations” The goal of the Red Brick Partnership is…” Our goal is to position downtown Matthews as a visible business district enhanced by an open, interesting and walkable streetscape. By connecting the retail business with a common theme and brand we create an authentic shopping and dining experience for the visitor. We plan to maximize our partners’ assets while encouraging like/kine businesses to develop downtown. By doing this, we can create a destination for the visitor and Matthews resident.” Just thinking here, but by allowing the Red Brick Partnership to sell beer and wine wouldn’t this take away from the businesses they are trying to promote? Needless to say, the request was approved with Commissioner Whitley opposed.
Every year the North Carolina League of Municipalities in Raleigh holds a Town Hall Day which is followed by a banquet and this year it will be held on March 29th. What is really mind blowing is how this leadership feels it is okay to use tax payer dollars to purchase their alcoholic beverages. In 2015 and 2016 a total $1,678.00 was spent alone on alcoholic beverages and bartender fees. Even though this total was split with six other municipalities this still does not justify the use of tax payer dollars in my book. I guess you could also look at it this way, if Mayor Jim Taylor and Commissioners Jeff Miller, John Higdon, John Ross, John Urban and Chris Melton did not indulge themselves than we covered the cost for Charlotte, Pineville, Mint Hill, Huntersville, Davidson and Cornelius. But, something tells me they had a grand-ole time. I questioned the Board about tax payer funds being used to purchase alcoholic beverages and Commissioner Higdon responded by making it clear that Town funds were not used to purchase alcohol. He continued with “This is Matthews policy and is rigorously enforced.” Interesting, because the receipts clearly show the purchase of Wine, Beer and Liquor. Town Hall Day 2015-2016 Receipts
We have been told by the Town of Matthews the request for beer and wine at Town events have come from the citizenry. Do you not find it quite humorous how they will listen to the cries for beer and wine, but not when the citizenry express their concerns for misuse of tax dollars. Funny how it works that way.
With all this being said it brings me to this, on September 12, 2016 a resident of Matthews requested a exemption from Town Ordinance §93.06 which prohibit’s alcohol within park facilities. The request was for a small wedding/reception in October at Squirrel Lake Park with a maximum of 35 people in attendance running from 2:00pm to 10:00pm, this would allow time to decorate and time for cleanup. Corey King of Matthews Parks and Recreation noted this was a first request to allow alcohol consumption on a public park and the Staff had reviewed the request with Matthews PD and came up with some guidelines if the request was approved. Commissioner Miller felt the eight hour rental fee of $140.00 was very inexpensive and was concerned about park security and damages. Mr. King explained that staff was not concerned about security and the applicant was aware fees would be assessed for any damages. Commissioner Melton’s concern’s were the sell of alcohol, but Mr. King stated the applicant would not be allowed to sell only serve. Commissioner Whitley said “he thinks this would be uncontrollable with people bringing in their own beer and wine with no official supervision” He was completely against it saying “that there is already too much drinking going on around town” Commissioner Urban was concerned with lack of supervision, noise and cleanup and thinks there should be staff supervision. Commissioner Ross thought maybe there should be an official policy, he felt this would likely come up again. Lastly Commissioner Higdon responded with “parks get a lot of visitors and he was concerned with the possibility of children interacting with people who have been drinking for hours” Squirrel Lake Park has two shelters. One is beside the playground and the other beside the pond. The wedding was planned for the shelter beside the pond. It was also noted that if the applicant had requested the exemption for Stumptown Park the outcome may have been different. I guess children/families do not attend this park. With all the traffic noise, businesses and lack of a picturesque view who would even want to have a wedding there? Where’s the romance in that? Needless to say, the request was unanimously denied.
During the September 26, 2016 Board of Commissioners meeting the requester addressed the Town Board during public comment asking once again to please reconsider their decision and informed the Board “she would meet any conditions such as the hiring of an off duty officer” Mayor Jim Taylor’s response was “This request was not on the agenda for discussion nor was public comment a time for a question and answer session.”
Trust me, I completely get it. I understand their concerns. The Town Board is trying to make Matthews a “happening” place but they cannot condemn and deny public request when children/families may be present and they continue to approve the sell of beer and wine for Town events they constantly call “family oriented”. This citizen was willing to work with the Town and honor any request, Mr. King even stated staff reviewed the request with Matthews PD and came up with guidelines. In my view there seems to be one set of rules for the Town and another for the public.
During the January 23, 2017 Board of Commissioners meeting the Board once again approved the sell of beer and wine for Food Truck Fridays and Pawsitively Matthews and I am certain Matthews Alive is not far behind. If they continue down the same path as Belmont I guess Matthews will become known as MatthBOOZE.
Thank you and please remember to support MATTHEWS WATCH by telling your friends and neighbors.