JOHNS CREEK, Ga. – With an eye to concerts in Newtown Park’s new pavilion this summer, the Johns Creek City Council is considering allowing beer and wine sales at those events.
Construction is nearing completion at the pavilion with the first concert set for June 28.
At the April 21 workshop, City Attorney Bill Riley told council that the only city property now allowing alcohol is the Summerour House at Autrey Mill Nature Preserve and Historic Preservation Center.
The Autrey Mill Preserve is allowed to pour for weddings and family reunions at the Summerour House on Mill property. The house serves as an event facility and provides the park an income stream.
Riley said it is not a large change to make administratively if the council should wish to extend the same to the pavilion.
Riley said the ordinance change wouldn’t allow patrons to bring alcohol to the event. Instead, it would be the responsibility of the event caterer if the pavilion was rented.
Councilwoman Kelly Stewart said she had an immediate concern about attendees becoming intoxicated in what is a family park.
“Whether the people are inside the pavilion area or outside, this is a family-friendly park,” Stewart said.
Chief of Police Ed Densmore said the area around the pavilion is contained.
“As long as area is limited, it’s easy enough to control. But it is a matter of staffing,” Densmore said.
If the city is going to search bags and coolers, then that will require more personnel.
Stewart said if bags and coolers are not checked, then people will bring it in.
Mayor Mike Bodker said people are able to do that for the outdoor movies shown at Johns Creek.
With the pavilion opening in June with a concert, Bodker said it is the proper time for the council to consider the sale of alcohol as an amenity to the patrons. That is why the decision should be made now rather than later.
“It happens with movies in the park is all I am saying. But it is not a problem. If we envision more Chastain-like events, we will need to have alcohol if we expect to sell tickets,” the mayor said.
Densmore said the police don’t check bags and coolers at the movies. They don’t have manpower for it.
“But we’ve never had to eject anyone before,” the chief said.
Densmore said it would not be useful to compare the policing needs of the Summerour House, which has relatively small events compared to those the pavilion would generate. Police only need an officer or two to provide security.
Stewart said that wasn’t really relevant since parents taking kids to outdoor movies is in no way similar to adult concert-goers.
“I want to see some parameters on this. I do have concerns for families and their children in the park,” Stewart said.
Councilwoman Cori Davenport also wanted to know what the police requirements would be for events at the pavilion. The city estimated around 500 patrons could be seated under the pavilion roof with seating for another 500 on the lawn.
With council reluctant to act – this is the first time the subject of serving alcohol has arisen – Bodker said action will be needed soon.
“June 28 is coming whether we like it or not. We need to have a plan to create the type of experience we want our residents to have,” Bodker said. “Do we want a mini-Verizon [Amphitheater] or a strictly smaller venue?”
Stewart said this would “remain a concern” for controlling the park and maintaining a family atmosphere.
“I don’t want a date [of the concert] to drive the decision,” Stewart said. “I want to get it right. Homeowners surround the park, and there are families inside the park.”
Councilman Brad Raffensperger said he wanted to see it more “fleshed out.”
Bodker said staff could bring more information for the council at its May 5 meeting.
“If there is no ordinance, then we will just have the concert and that’s it,” the mayor said.
Riley said he would look at ordinances other cities have in place that Johns Creek could then model its own if council wanted to pursue it.