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Tampa officials discuss alcohol sales in parks

TAMPA — Buy a beer, bolster the city budget.

That could happen with plans to bring concession stands or restaurants to several public parks, including Ben. T. Davis Beach, Al Lopez Park and the renovated Curtis Hixon Park.

Some stands could be run by an outside vendor, with the city taking a portion of sales proceeds, said Karen Palus, director of the city's Department of Parks and Recreation.

The question she posed to the City Council on Thursday: Should beer and wine be allowed as part of those sales?

The council took no vote, but Council member Linda Saul-Sena said sometimes the answer should be yes.

As an example, she pointed out the Taste of Boston restaurant in the city's Ballast Point Park. The city recently denied the restaurant's request for a wet zoning, citing its proximity to a playground.

But Saul-Sena said the park also offers a beautiful view of the water.

"It's a place where you might want to have a glass of wine or drink a beer and watch the sunset," she said.

"The view is much clearer when you're sober," chimed in council member John Dingfelder, who argued the council should set clear limits on which parks would allow alcohol sales, and make the policy difficult to change by requiring a super majority vote to do so.

Dingfelder said he doesn't object to alcohol sales in downtown parks because they don't generally attract children.

But Ben T. Davis Beach along the Courtney Campbell Parkway is another story.

"It's family after family after family right next to a highway," he said. "I'm not sure the city wants to condone the sale of alcohol at a place like that."

Council member Tom Scott agreed, noting that Al Lopez Park also attracts families and is sandwiched between busy Dale Mabry Highway and car-heavy Himes Avenue. He also wondered whether allowing alcohol sales in a few parks would mean they would spill into too many locations.

The city is in tough financial times, Scott said. "It's a sad day when we have to start selling alcohol," he said.

Dingfelder agreed.

"Pretty soon you have a whole park system with it all over the place," he said. "I don't think the community really wants that."

City ordinances allow alcohol sales in parks if the city does not maintain or operate the place selling the alcohol. That's why Lowry Park Zoo can sell alcohol, even though the zoo is on city land.

Palus on Thursday also unveiled a pilot program that will allow alcohol at private events, such as wedding receptions and family reunions, at the Ragan Park Center and the Seminole Heights Garden Center.

If the program is successful, Palus said, it might be expanded to other rental facilities.

Currently, only nonprofits can get temporary permission to serve alcohol in city parks during special events.

Janet Zink can be reached at jzink@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3401.

Tampa officials discuss alcohol sales in parks 07/24/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, July 29, 2008 2:44pm]
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