Sep 23, 2011 Jason Emerson Uncategorized
The Village Board of Trustees at its Sept. 22 meeting refused to overturn its previous decision to prohibit alcohol consumption on village-owned property, causing consternation and anger in members of the Skaneateles Historical Society who requested a new vote on the issue.
The board’s refusal to revote now forces the SHS and the Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce to revise their plans for a scheduled Oct. 6 Business After Hours event at The Creamery and the Boat and Transportation Museum on Hannum Street. What was going to be a wine and cheese event now must become a cheese and cider or iced tea event.
“I don’t think its going to be a big issue for [the chamber] going forward, but I feel bad for the historical society; they may have to change plans in the future for other fundraisers,” said Sue Dove, executive director of the Skaneateles Chamber of Commerce.
Historical society president Karlene Miller, on the other hand, was visibly angry after the board’s refusal, abruptly standing up, gathering her belongings and stalking out of the meeting.
The issue first surfaced at the board’s Aug. 24 meeting, at which the Trustees unanimously rejected the request to serve alcohol at the Skaneateles Historical Society boat museum as part of the chamber of commerce’s monthly Business After Hours event.
Trustee Marc Angelillo led the opposition, saying the village should not contribute to the “glorification” of alcohol consumption by allowing it on village property or by village groups. He also was concerned about possible legal liability to the village if an alcohol-related incident occurred at a village facility.
At the Sept. 8 meeting, Dove broached the Business After Hours alcohol subject again, calling the board’s previous rejection inconsistent since they allow the yearly Fire Department Field Days celebration at Austin Park — which is village property — to serve alcohol.
But at the board’s Sept. 22 meeting, Village attorney Michael J. Byrne said the village has no liquor liability insurance coverage, and, later in the meeting, said the SVFD, Inc., gets the insurance for the Field Days celebration and “the liability is theirs.”
Chamber director Dove said the chamber’s insurance should cover any liability. “This being a two-hour business event, the potential for something to happen is very miniscule,” she added. She encouraged the board to consider the question of alcohol on village property on a case-by-case basis.
Miller, citing the Fire Department Field Days, said, “We feel there is an inconsistency when a group can serve and sell alcohol 10 hours a day for two days in a row to an unbelievable amount of people, and we [can’t] have a small group of professionals coming for a drink after work.”
Miller also cited what she called “past precedent” of alcohol served at The Creamery: a 2007 fundraiser, the 2008 antique boat show, and a 2009 author event. “All without incident,” she said.
SHS board member Dave Miller also spoke, called the prohibition unfair, and said to not be allowed to serve alcohol “would completely constrain and restrict our ability to have fundraising activities, which are the lifeblood of our organization.”
After a few more public comments, Trustee Sue Jones said she was concerned about alcohol consumption “creeping” into other village buildings if this were allowed. Trustee Mary Sennett voiced the same concern earlier in the meeting.
Trustee John Cromp then made a motion for the board to reopen and reconsider the issue of allowing the Business After Hours to serve alcohol at The Creamery. Trustee Marc Angelillo, whose original anti-alcohol motion in August set off the issue, tried to make a statement but Mayor Marty Hubbard cut him off, saying a motion had been made and a second was needed to allow reconsideration.
No one on the board seconded Cromp’s motion.
After a few moments of awkward silence, Hubbard said, “No second. The board’s previous decision stands.”
After the meeting, Angelillo said he was glad the board “stood firm” that alcohol should not be served in public buildings.
“Everyone has good intentions, but we all hope, they all hope, that nothing bad happens … but hope isn’t a good plan. I firmly feel we need to remove the liability of village taxpayers of any type of lawsuit involving alcohol,” Angelillo said.
In addition to the legal aspect, Angelillo said his personal opinion and experiences also swayed his vote. In 2004 his son was killed by a drunk driver.
“I guess through my own personal experiences I may have a different view than some people,” he said. “I’m not taking a stand on whether drinking is good or not good. But I do have a vote and I used my vote the way I personally felt.”
Dove said the Oct. 6 Business After Hours event still will be held at The Creamery, regardless of the change in refreshments.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Skaneateles Press. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Jason Emerson is editor of the Cazenovia Republican and Eagle Bulletin newspapers.