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Council okays looser alcohol rules for events

“It’s not illegal but it’s pretty edgy”

by Mark Reaman

A couple of events this summer will have a taste of Las Vegas or New Orleans, and that has raised the eyebrows of the town attorney.

The One World music event, to be held on Elk Avenue after the Fourth of July parade, and the Ride-the-Rockies gathering in June will both allow people to wander the main area of town with an alcoholic drink in hand.

There will be a designated liquor permit area but there will not be any major fencing delineating that area. Instead, volunteers and security will man entrance and exit points to keep people from wandering too far with their beers. Alcohol bought on Elk must stay on the street and alcohol bought in a private business must stay in the establishment. Think of it as a giant beer garden instead of just a half block at Third and Elk.

The Crested Butte Town Council discussed the situation on Monday, May 18 and was supportive of the suggestion to open up the liquor rules. Aside from the special Whatever USA party last September, a few other events last year had successfully implemented such an operation.

But town attorney John Belkin warned the council of the greater risks associated with the idea.

“It’s not illegal, but I have talked to lawyers with extensive liquor regulation experience and this is relatively unique,” he said. “Not having a fence was an issue. They didn’t think it was advisable to not have a fence. The town’s insurance company feels no fence is not advisable. Can you do it? It’s not illegal but it puts the town, the applicant, the people in there in a position of risk.”

Chief marshal Tom Martin told the council, “Historically, having both fencing and volunteers works the best. You need the volunteers to remind people they can’t leave the venue with alcohol.”

“We talked to the state and their take is that ‘control’ is required,” added town manager Todd Crossett.

“You’re in a weird spot,” said Belkin. “There will be some areas where people move from private property onto public property with a drink and not even realize it. It will work fine if it works. If an issue comes up, it will unravel. It has its challenges. Hey, I’m just the messenger. You as the council have to make the hard decision.”

The July 4 One World event is being sponsored by the Crested Butte Music Festival. Organizer Crista Ryan told the council there would be extra security volunteers and professional bartenders who have had Training for Intervention Procedures, or TIPS. “They have all worked the Country Jam event. They know what they are doing,” she said.

“I’m good with the plan as proposed,” said councilman Skip Berkshire. “The marshals need the ability to keep it under control but I don’t see a big threat.”

Councilman Glenn Michel said he worked the Black and White Ball last year and most people were very understanding of keeping alcohol in a confined area.

“This is the single busiest day of the year for Crested Butte on the Fourth of July,” said councilmember Shaun Matusewicz. “The demographics are very different from the Black and White Ball. We are taking a risk. That’s clear. It should weigh on all of us.”

“I agree there is a risk with this many people,” said councilman Roland Mason. “Allowing something like this will set a precedent that everyone will want to do. I’d like a detailed debriefing after the event.”

“I think it will be okay if you have talked to every bar and restaurant,” said Schmidt.

“This is an attempt to strike a balance with the businesses,” said Berkshire. “I say let’s roll with it. Sounds like a good deal to me.”

Five of the seven council members were ready to roll with the Fourth of July event. Matusewicz and Mason voted against the idea.

Later in the meeting chamber of commerce director Dave Ochs explained a similar situation would occur when Ride-the Rockies rolled into town. That would involve far fewer people and he said he has talked to all the nearby bars and restaurants. He gave credit to mayor Aaron Huckstep for coming up with the less fence/more volunteers concept to allow a more free wandering of the drinking class on Elk Avenue.

The council unanimously approved that event.

“It’s not illegal what you’re doing, but it’s pretty edgy,” summarized Belkin.

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