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Harriman leaders showed last week they take regulating beer sales seriously.
Despite the removal of controversial wording that would allow for special-events permits, Harriman City Council voted against the measure that enumerated a number of beer restriction changes.
“We don’t feel like we should have alcoholic beverages in Riverfront Park or sold on the main thoroughfare during festivals,” said businessman James Harmon.
“Families attend these events, and we just don’t think it is right,” he added.
Harmon was part of the large crowd the issue attracted to the council meeting. Prominent among them were a number of Southern Baptist preachers and church members.
“I’m concerned about the sale of any kind of alcohol — or even the presence of alcohol in those areas when they are presented as family events,” said Trenton Street Baptist Church Pastor Gene Nelson.
The big concern with the ordinance was that it would enable beer sales at public events, such as the Hooray for Harriman Labor Day street festival.
Council member Kenyon Mee, who sits on the beer board, said none of the beer board members had a problem with that section being removed.
The ordinance clearly states beer cannot be sold on public property, right of way or streets. But beer board members discussed the street festival, sports tournaments and Harriman Riverfront Park as possibilities for special-use permits.
“I don’t think it is what we all thought it was at first,” said Mayor Chris Mason, who is opposed to beer sales at events such as the Cruisin’ auto shows.
Mee pointed out last week that the idea wasn’t for vendors to be able to apply for permits. That task was to be left to event organizers. In the case of the street festival, that would be Hooray for Harriman.
Street festival planner Randy Ellis has voiced his opposition to having beer at the family-oriented event. Mee noted that pending legislation before the Tennessee General Assembly would allow for temporary permits.
“We have prayed about this, and I believe the council as a whole would not want alcoholic beverages in our Riverfront Park,” Harmon said.
Nelson and other pastors pledged to withdraw their churches’ participation in community activities if beer is a presence.
Even a proposal to section off where beer could be sold is problematic, Nelson said.
“You are separating families,” he declared. “If someone cannot go and spend three hours at an event without having to have a beer or have something to drink, then they have a deeper problem.”
Councilman J.D. Sampson said his idea for special-event permits was to make everything fair. He pointed out that alcohol was distributed during last year’s fundraising gala for the Temperance Building, a public facility.
Some at the meeting said they thought the proposal was a money-making scheme. Permits, however, were only to be issued to bona fide charitable or nonprofit organizations, which are tax exempt.
Mee said the ordinance was meant to bring Harriman more in line with state regulations.
Another proposed change would have updated the hours for off-premise beer sales.
Mee pointed out current regulations ban a convenience store from selling beer during the same hours a restaurant is permitted to sell liquor by the drink.
“So instead of buying your alcohol and taking it home, you can go to a restaurant and drink,” he said.
The change would have allowed off-premise sales to mirror the hours for on-premise consumption.
“That is just bringing them together,” Mee said.