Olympia to try festival beer garden

OLYMPIA: Pilot project involves 24-by-75-foot area at Seventh Avenue and Washington Street

May 25, 2011 

OLYMPIA – The Olympia City Council agreed Tuesday night to allow a one-time, trial beer garden on city property as part of the Capital City Pride Festival.

The festival, held June 11-12, is an annual celebration of lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender pride in Olympia that’s centered at Sylvester Park. The nonprofit group Capital City Pride approached the city about putting the garden on Seventh Avenue.

The council didn’t vote because City Manager Steve Hall has the final call, but he asked for the council’s input on the issue.

The state doesn’t allow liquor to be sold in the park, according to a staff report, and current city law doesn’t allow people to drink alcohol in a place not authorized by law.

The pilot project the council considered would allow a 24-by-75-foot beer garden that must serve food at Seventh Avenue and Washington Street. The beer garden could operate from noon-3 p.m. June 11 and noon-4 p.m. June 12. The whole area will be fenced and monitored.

“We don’t want this to be a big headache, for us or for the city,” said Tony Sermonti, chairman of Capital City Pride.

Mayor Doug Mah said the trial beer garden will determine whether the city continues to allow them on city property.

Capital City Pride crafted the beer garden proposal with Together, a local nonprofit group that works to prevent youth substance abuse.

Jim Cooper, the executive director of Together, praised the plan as “well thought out” and “one that will keep Pride a classy and fun event in downtown Olympia.”

The council agreed last year to approve another pilot project to allow alcohol sales during rentals and events at the rose garden in Priest Point Park. It also approved allowing hard liquor in private rentals at The Olympia Center on a trial basis, in addition to beer and wine, which previously were allowed.

The city has had beer gardens in the past, but they have been on private property. Olympia Police Cmdr. Steve Nelson said the garden that happens during Capital Lakefair is an example. The Capital Lakefair organization does not sponsor that garden, city spokeswoman Cathie Butler said.

The city had discussed the issue of alcohol sales on city property starting in 2002, then again in 2009 and last year, Butler said.

City Manager Steve Hall said the city has moved slowly because the issue opens the city up to liability.

The council’s decision followed a presentation from Capital City Pride recognizing the city for its support of LGBT rights and celebrating the organization’s 20th anniversary.

Speakers recalled the city’s early embrace of gay rights legislation in the 1980s and the group’s growth from an organization marching for gay rights in the 1990s to now celebrating the LGBT community’s political gains in a parade.

“It’s really a milestone for me to stand at the podium tonight,” said Anna Schlecht, a longtime city employee and member of Capital City Pride.

Councilman Craig Ottavelli said after their remarks, “It is indeed an honor to be recognized by all of you.”

Matt Batcheldor: 360-704-6869 mbatcheldor@theolympian.com

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