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Council will revise alcohol ordinance

(ran PW, PS editions)

Council members reached a compromise Tuesday that asks staffers to draft an ordinance limiting the sale and consumption of alcohol to one city park on a trial basis.

Voters will get the chance in April to voice their opinion on alcohol sale and consumption on all city property. In a separate vote, council members scrapped an ordinance that allowed the sale and consumption of alcohol in all city parks in favor of the narrower law.

A residents' petition, signed by 10 percent of city voters, required the council to reconsider the initial ordinance. That measure would have restricted drinking to designated areas, required wristbands, set a three-drink limit and restricted hours when alcohol could have been served at special events on city property.

Tuesday's vote gave the council the opportunity to change the ordinance slightly and put another version before the voters.

Council member Frank Parker was opposed to allowing alcohol on any city properties, while his colleague Tom Finn saw the sales as a cost-saving opportunity for the city.

Finn said the New Port Richey Community Cooperative, a group charged with promoting and drawing more businesses downtown, could earn enough selling alcohol at its events to replace an annual $50,000 allotment from the city.

Mayor Peter Altman, who along with Parker cannot run for re-election in April because of term limits, said he favored the sales but likely would defer to other council members who would have to deal with the law's repercussions. Altman has suggested an alternative ordinance that would exclude Sims Park, site of the city's main public playground.

Parker and council member Ginny Miller had expressed support for a measure that would sell alcohol at other city locations.

The initial ordinance was drafted in response to a request from the cooperative, whose members believe the availability of alcohol would draw more people and money downtown. By contrast, critics say the measure would promote unruly behavior and tarnish the city's family-friendly image.