OUR VIEW: Where was the protest over beer at Hairball concert?Recently, a pair of conservative pastors and a few others steamrolled a proposal to allow sidewalk alcohol service in downtown Mitchell.
Recently, a pair of conservative pastors and a few others steamrolled a proposal to allow sidewalk alcohol service in downtown Mitchell.
The proposal started simply and promisingly enough. The owner of Cornerstone Coffee House & Deli in Mitchell wanted to allow patrons the opportunity to drink their wine at a sidewalk table beside the building.
That was really all there was to it. The establishment already can sell wine, and people already drink wine there. The only change would have been that customers could have picked up their drink, walked to a table outside near a window, and continued sipping there instead of inside. Similar changes could have occurred at other downtown eateries.
The proposal was initially moved forward on a 7-1 vote by the City Council. Then, when the ordinance received its second and final reading, a pair of conservative pastors and a few others spouted all manner of hyperbole about how such an ordinance would (we’re paraphrasing) send the city down a slippery slope toward Hell. The council members buckled, and the vote switched from 7-1 in favor to 7-1 against.
With that controversy only recently behind us, we had to chuckle at the news from Saturday’s Hairball concert at the Corn Palace. A crowd of 2,018 purchased about $30,000 worth of beer, which set a new beer sales record for the city-owned arena.
We’ve since learned that 10,993 cans were sold. That equates to 5.45 beers per person.
So, we can’t help but wonder, where was the protest?
On the one hand, we have a privately owned downtown establishment that wants to allow its patrons to casually sip a glass of wine at a sidewalk table. On the other hand, we have city government itself allowing thousands of people to get drunk in a city-owned facility.
We don’t mean to disparage the Hairball concert. It was a fine event, and we’ve heard of no criminal incidents or serious accidents arising from the alcohol that was consumed there. We hope Hairball returns.
Our point is that, all things considered, the few people who protested against sidewalk alcohol picked a rather insignificant hill to attack, and seven council members surrendered that hill far too easily.
We appreciate Jeff Smith, the lone council member who maintained his “yes” vote for the sidewalk alcohol ordinance against the mini-barrage of complaints.
And we remain convinced that sidewalk alcohol consumption, if properly regulated and policed (like the Hairball concert was), could add to the appeal of Mitchell’s downtown district. A more appealing downtown could attract more foot traffic and aid private business owners.
It’s common sense, and we wish the council would have exercised some on this issue.