JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – The ink was scarcely dry on the contract to have the Johns Creek Symphony Orchestra appear in the inaugural June 28 concert in Newtown Park’s new amphitheater when the question of alcohol sales came up.
At the May 5 City Council meeting, council voted 3-1 (Kelly Stewart opposed; Cori Davenport absent) to allow alcohol sales at the Newtown amphitheater at least for the three-concert season.
It was not an easy decision. Stewart opposes the use of alcohol for the pain and suffering it brings to communities. She said she did not think serving alcohol should be allowed in a family-friendly park.
She noted since she joined the City Council in 2010, the city has approved alcohol sales on Sunday, allowed private parties to serve alcohol at Autrey Mill Park, allowed beer “growlers” and wine tastings and allowed alcohol at Arts on the Creek.
Now with alcohol served at concerts in Newtown Park, Stewart wanted to know where it ends.
“I am worried about the unintended consequences for still more opportunities to have alcohol,” she said. “I don’t think we need this in public parks.”
Councilman Brad Raffensperger said his daughter’s wedding was dry, but he did not think it was wrong to have concert goers served drinks.
First, the amphitheater will be fenced to control crowds coming and going and since concert events are in the evenings, small children would not be exposed to it. Alcohol would be available only by caterers with a pouring license.
The police chief said it would require perhaps no more than two officers to patrol the concerts of between 1,000 and 1,300 patrons.
“Johns Creek is the safest city in Georgia with a population of more than 25,000 people,” said Raffensperger. “We have had all of our concerns about the pavilion and alcohol addressed. No one will be allowed to bring in their own alcohol.”
Raffensperger said with pavilion fencing, a police presence, alcohol controlled by licensed vendors and a generally law-abiding citizenry, that he will support alcohol sales.
Mayor Mike Bodker agreed alcohol would be controlled and other park activities would be separated by the fence.
“This is not something new. We’re not breaking new ground. We have experience with it at rentals of the Summerour House [in Autrey Mill Park] and with Arts on the Creek, and had no problems there,” Bodker said.
Councilman Lenny Zaprowski said he would have liked to see more citizen comment and the full council vote. But he noted Bodker will be absent at the May 19 meeting, so all five members would be not present until June. Staff wanted to give vendors time to know the sort of services for which they would be bidding for the June 28 concert.
The council agreed to review the policy again in the fall after the inaugural three-concert series ends.