BIDDEFORD — The City Council voted 7-2 Tuesday against allowing the consumption of alcohol at special events on city property.  

The ordinance change was proposed by the Heart of Biddeford in anticipation of the River Jam Festival, which will be held in September in Mechanics Park.

Before the vote, HOB Executive Director Delilah Poupore told councilors that alcohol would complement the music festival and assured them that the measure would only allow for alcohol consumption “under very limited and restricted circumstances” during future events.

“Alcohol is not the focus of any of the events,” she said. “It’s if you’re already having a major event and alcohol would complement it, we’d like it to be considered for permit.”

But the council, for the most part, did not agree.

“I just don’t see the necessity, I guess, for this,” said Councilor Michael Ready. “I don’t think we need to do this on city property.”

“Alcohol is not allocated on our sports fields,” said Councilor Roger Hurtubise. “It should not be approved on our public parks for liability issues.”

“Not a good idea whatsoever,” Councilor Clement Fleurent said firmly. “These parks are … for family use.”

Ready and Councilor Marc Lessard also voiced concerns over the fact that approving the measure would allow organizations other than the Heart of Biddeford to request permits to sell alcohol on city property.

“It doesn’t limit it to the Heart of Biddeford or any other group,” said Ready.

“We don’t know who the applicant is going to be in the future,” added Lessard.

To these points, Mayor Alan Casavant stressed that if the order passed, the council would still get to decide on a case-by-case basis whether alcohol is appropriate at certain events. “That’s the safety valve,” he said.

Casavant said he supported the measure because in the past, businesses such as the Palace Diner have run into problems attempting to hold dinners at which alcohol could be served in Shevenell Park. 

He also suggested the council “at least go along with” the first reading of the order, allowing for some adjustments to its language before making a final decision on it during the second reading. But that request mostly fell on deaf ears, with only Councilors Bob Mills and Stephen St. Cyr voting in favor of the measure.

Mills said at last year’s River Jam Festival, which was not held in Mechanics Park, alcohol was served in a “very controlled manner” and there were no problems.

— Staff Writer Angelo J. Verzoni can be contacted at 282-1535, ext. 329 or [email protected]

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