To drink or not to drink at city-ticketed events was the controversial question at last night’s Laurens City Council Meeting. Director of Parks and Recreation Jason Pridgen presented new executive regulations for the city amphitheater and public parks for council approval. He noted that in the eight years since his department was formed, there have been no set rules for city parks until council voted to prohibit the selling of alcohol at ticketed events held at the parks in August of 2011. With the new regulations he presented last evening alcohol would be allowed to be sold at ticketed events like the “Outshine” concert coming up August 8th. The main question regarding the new regulations was whether they need full council approval, or just the approval of the mayor. City Attorney Tom Thompson informed council the decision rests solely with Mayor Brownlee. Council members, however, did voice their opinion on the matter, with Council member Sylvia Douglas protesting that the previous ruling by council barring alcohol sales should not be overturned.
The Mayor and Recreation Director both addressed Mrs. Douglas’ opposition by stating that as the city grows and new and larger events come to the amphitheater, overwhelming requests by younger members of the city should be addressed. Laurens Police Chief Sonny Ledda was asked if the police had any problem with allowing alcohol sales, and he said that alcohol sales will not be a problem but that his department would support any decision made by the mayor and council.
Councilman Martin Lowry noted that after previous city ticketed concerts evidence of alcohol and drug consumption was obvious due to the refuse left behind. Councilwoman Sara Latimore commented that, “Even though I do not drink or approve of drinking, alcohol will be there no matter what.” After additional comments from council members, the mayor said that even though she would have rather it been a full council decision, she realizes that, “The ball is in my court.” Sharon Brownlee added “I will accept the burden of deciding this issue.”
As to what her decision will be, one clue was in her statement “I am concerned about keeping our young people in the county. It is important to address what our young people want. I will take this in to consideration and will decide tomorrow.”