Residents voice their opinions on alcohol in park

City council may have two big decisions on tap at the next meeting on July 24 whether to allow alcohol in public parks and whether to allow a tax abatement for Batesville Casket Company to move off U.S. 250 into a new facility in the Norwalk Commons development. Council members didn't discuss their views on allowing Berry's Restaurant to serve alcohol in Bresson Park during Tuesday night's council meeting, but audience members spoke for both sides of the issue.
Norwalk Reflector Staff
Jul 25, 2010

City council may have two big decisions on tap at the next meeting on July 24 whether to allow alcohol in public parks and whether to allow a tax abatement for Batesville Casket Company to move off U.S. 250 into a new facility in the Norwalk Commons development.

Council members didn't discuss their views on allowing Berry's Restaurant to serve alcohol in Bresson Park during Tuesday night's council meeting, but audience members spoke for both sides of the issue.

Mike Babcock, of 54 Linwood Ave., spoke against the proposal. "Don't let this nice, quaint little city prostitute itself," he said. He called the renewal of legislation to allow alcohol in public parks in the downtown area if the seller had a permit and a lease with the city "a waste of taxpayers' dollars" and said the proposal "smacks of favoritism" since only one business has asked for the arrangement.

Babcock said every poll he has seen has been against the proposal, which shows the public doesn't support it. He added that the combination of concealed carry permits for weapons and alcohol in a public park could be a dangerous combination.

Debra McClung, who owns both a design business and a realty company in Lewisburg, W.Va., and is currently working on a design project for Berry's, urged council members to consider the proposal. She said the small town of Lewisburg's downtown "was dying" until the town approved a similar proposal to allow alcohol on public property with special permission.

"It absolutely amazed me what it has done for business in the whole downtown area," she said, adding Lewisburg's downtown has several new businesses and even restaurants that don't serve alcohol have benefited from the change in policy. The downtown has worked together to bring in tourism dollars and allowing alcohol on public property is part of that plan, she said after the meeting.

Norwalk Police Chief Kevin Cashen repeated his opposition to the proposal after the meeting. "I'm still against drinking in the public parks," he said.

Cashen pointed out that 44 Norwalk businesses have liquor permits from the state and 20 of those businesses also serve food. He added that the state has granted 12 liquor permits to businesses in the downtown area.

"I don't think the public lacks opportunity to get a drink if they want," he said. Cashen said he supported Berry's request for a liquor permit for the Dinky Pub and Grille, but he doesn't believe the restaurant should expand the serving of liquor outside of its building.

On the issue of development of the Norwalk Commons project on the north side of the city, the manager for Batesville said the company would like to leave its U.S. 250 location and move into a new 25,000-square-foot, million-dollar facility just two blocks away in the area being developed by Pride One.

Manager Mike Kierstead said the move would take the company from Norwalk Township into the city so the city would benefit from additional income tax dollars. As part of a proposed deal, he added, Pride One would then use the frontage on U.S. 250 to expand its development project.

Mayor Sue Lesch called the proposal "significant" for Pride One. Batesville would not only encourage other companies to consider joining the development, she said, but Pride One plans to use the abandoned frontage on U.S. 250 to add restaurants to the development.

Ben Kenny, development coordinator for WSOS Community Action Commission based in Fremont, explained to council that Batesville is now working through state channels to get permission to apply for tax abatement since the state considers the move a relocation instead of an addition. He said the state discourages abatements for relocations so that communities can't entice businesses away from other communities routinely by offering new abatements. If Batesville gets the state waiver, he said, council can consider an abatement of up to 60 percent for the new facility.

Comments

Public drinking...

Legalizing drinking in public parks is not only wrong, it's irresponsible. Norwalk is suppose to be a kid's town. We have to fight so hard to get things in this town for kids to do, and yet we are far from being short of places for people to get drunk. If we are going to fight to get new things in this town, let's make it kid oriented, not so your business can make more money. That's all it is. Being selfish. Just so you can serve alcohol in that park they will have to legalize drinking alcohol in public parks. Can you even begin to think of the problems that is going to cause? Let's maintain the kid friendly atmosphere Norwalk is known for.

JEF (Anonymous)

Using the welfare of the children as an argument against adults practicing responsible behavior is a flimsy ruse. Ultimately, parents and parents alone are accountable for the actions of their minor offspring. Kindly stop attempting to obligate us in the raising of your children - that's your responsibility. It's ludicrous to argue that "little Johnny" or "little Suzy" will go on to lead a life of crime because they witnessed an adult consume an adult beverage in a responsible manner.

smalltowner (An...

This whole issue is stupid. It should be a DEAD issue yet it keeps raising it's ugly head again and again. The public has repeatedly said NO NO NO yet you people on council keep putting it right back up again how much plainer does it need to be, IT IS A PUBLIC PARK, THERE SHOULD BE NO ALCOHOL OR FOOD SERVED THERE! PERIOD.

mother of 4 (An...

If we can have alcohol in the parks where we have outtings, than can we have our children in bars for outtings??? How stupid is this issue?? Let's get drunk while we are watching our child play tee ball. Maybe have a fight with the ref (that's what it will lead too)

Norwalktaxpayer...

Mr. Babcock hit this right on the head...It's unbelievable that this issue is still floating around.
This is nothing more than a silly waste of time.
Any council member who supports this should be ashamed.
Stop listening to Doug Berry,and listen to the MAJORITY of your constituents! It's amazing how somethings never change. If the Berry's pitch a big enough fit, they eventually get their way.
While it's a longstanding business, I can think of several others that do a lot more for the community than Berry's. I'm talking about giving back to the community, not just turning a profit.
It was rejected before it really ever got off the ground last year, and it was shot down once already this summer.
If someone can explain how exactly this would benefit Norwalk, and the downtown business district, please do.
How would it attract a more significant number of people downtown? Keep in mind there's about six tables at Bresson Park. How would it benefit surrounding businesses?
Does anyone truly think this would help bring new business downtown?
If you do, you're fooling yourself.

JEF (Anonymous)

The basic fact is that absolutely no one knows if the effects of serving liquor in Bresson Park by Berry's will be positive or negative for uptown business. I would guess that approximately 1/3 of Norwalk residents are against, 1/3 are for and the remaining 1/3 don't care either way. Why not simply give it a test period and then evaluate the results at a later time? Uptown needs a boost. Perhaps this will get the ball rolling toward other improvements which in turn will help to increase uptown pedestrian traffic.

oh yea (Anonymous)

for me it's not about the effects on business or the liability....its about the city giving a public park to a private business.

That's right (A...

Yea, how dare we let a private business use a public park. I say we do away with this type of thing. We should also stop the Farmer's Markets in Pohl Park, Thunder in the Streets, and the Heritage Festival which is a business too.

JEF (Anonymous)

Before it was a public park, there was a tax paying business on that site. Less uptown business = less tax dollars in the city coffers = higher income and service taxes on the citizens of Norwalk. How soon before uptown is glutted with well manicured memorial parks complete with beautifully designed plaques commemorating sites where businesses once stood? Stop all the bickering and give Mr. Berry his permit. And to help potentially appease the negative Nellies, perhaps put a two to three year sunset provision in the ordinance, making it come up for another vote so we can test the success or failure of this proposal to help uptown business.

Norwalktaxpayer...

JEF,
What business was that? I've lived in Norwalk a long time, and I can't seem to remember a business there.
GTE and Verizon were in the building that's now vacant.
I don't have a problem promoting business, but I don't think this particular suggestion is a good idea.
Berry's is paying $200 a month to use the property, which still doesn't sit well with a lot of people.
Mark my words: This will never pass when City Council votes July 24th. The vote will be 5-2 or 4-3 against the proposal.

South Hester St...

It was south Hester street before they vacated the street and made it into a park.

JEF (Anonymous)

Wasn't the Avalon Hotel once on that site? Regardless it's history, and the point is that uptown needs more thriving and successful businesses. The continuation of this communal sense of provincialism can little more than lead to further decline and decay of uptown and Norwalk in general. Saying that Norwalk is a kids place is little more than a coy phrase when placed against the reality that few of them remain to work in the community after graduation from high school or college. Uptown is reflective of the community as a whole. It in turn screams volumes to potential employers whether this is a community in which they should set up shop and thereby provide much needed jobs, or rather should they keep searching for greener pastures down-the-road. I contend that if one is against Mr. Berry's simple and reasonable proposal, that one is also in favor by default perhaps of the continual decline of uptown and the local economy.

Norwalktaxpayer...

JEF,

You seem like an educated and reasonable person. But I fail to understand how you think this proposal will benefit downtown Norwalk, and Norwalk in general.
Perhaps I'm missing some of your argument.
Would you agree that a number of factors have changed the face of the downtown area (big box stores, the Sandusky Mall, internet shopping, etc.)?
I'd be willing to bet there's not a lot of viable "Downtown USA" cities left, especially in areas like Norwalk.
When I was growing up, downtown Norwalk was full of stores like K+H Drug, Holman Jewelers, JCPenney, Woolworth, Eberts, Amsel's Shoes, and others. Times have changed, not only in Norwalk, but all over.

I don't have anything against Berry's. My family has dinner there 1-2 times a month, and we enjoy it.
I don't have anything against the consumption of alcohol in moderation, and if appropriate preparations are made, such as a designated driver.
Most people don't truly believe the Berry's crowd, or patrons of the Dinky will cause problems.
It's the thought of using city-owned property for this proposal .
It's not a big area, and Berry's seems to be paying a very reasonable rent. Why can't both sides at least explore the idea of selling/buying the property? If Mr. Berry is confidenthis proposal will enhance his business and downtown, why not try to enter preliminary negotiations?
At least some opponents of the idea may very well back off, if it's privately-owned land.

P-Dog (Anonymous)

Ok, so the benefit to Norwalk is that someone can sit out in the park and have a beer with their meal. What is the disadvantage to the community? I mean honestly, no one else is going to get hurt if I eat some Creamed Chicken over biscuits and a Bud Light. Even if someone is sitting in the park with their grandchildren listening to music they will not be affected. It not like you are going to have a crowd of rowdy drunks sitting their swearing and dancing naked on the tables. There are other bars in town for that with a better atmosphere. You are going to see the same people who frequent Berry's now, they will just be outside enjoying their meals.

Norwalktaxpayer...

Again, how does that benefit Norwalk?

JEF (Anonymous)

From Norwalktaxpayer: I'd be willing to bet there's not a lot of viable "Downtown USA" cities left, especially in areas like Norwalk. They are indeed many if one has the initiative to search them out. (See www.Nappannee.org for one) Fatalism and defeat are qualities that will not in all likelihood produce much needed improvements in the uptown ecomomy and Norwalk in general. Norwalk needs to capture some of the tourist dollars that are flowing northward towards the lake during the warm weather months. Creating a downtown tourist mecca with sidewalk dining (liquor included) is a good first start.

Norwalktaxpayer...

JEF,
I can't seem to find the website to which you referred. Not sure if it's down, or there's another problem, so it's difficult to comment on it.
I know Medina made a commitment to downtown revitalization several years ago, but I'm not sure how that worked out.
Perhaps well, perhaps not.
Regardless, even if it worked someplace else, it doesn't mean it will work here. More on that in a second.
The tourism dollars that you mentioned are important, although it's a limited window of opportunity. It's Memorial Day (actually, more like mid-June) through Labor Day.
I just took a drive through downtown (Main St, early Sunday afternoon), and I noticed exactly five businesses that were open: Berry's, Peking House, both antique stores and East of Chicago Pizza.
To make downtown Norwalk a tourist mecca, a number of things must happen.
Thanks to big box stores and their cut-rate prices, specialty shoppes will need to come in and open their doors. (This isn't a new idea). Landlords with open space will need to ensure that rent rates aren't sky-high. In fact, there should be some incentive for long-term commitments.
These shoppes must be willing to stay open much longer than most existing downtown businesses. 9-5 weekdays, 9-12 Saturday and closed Sundays won't cut it.
9-9 Monday through Saturday, and 10-6 Sunday, or something like that would be necessary.
Also, what's the plan for the non-tourist season? What will those specialty shoppes, and existing businesses do to make themselves more attractive?
A tiny Xmas parade, and a day or two of special holiday hours won't cut it.
Of course, there's much more, but those are just some examples.
Outdoor/sidewalk dining seem to be pretty low on the list.

mytown (Anonymous)

If Doug Berry wants to serve booze with that stuff he calls food then he can go buy property and compete on the same playing field as every other business in this town that serves alcohol outside. For a few hundered dollars he gets full use of a place that was totally built and maintained by the taxpayers in this town. Where does this all stop if the city gives in and lets this idiotic idea go through? Would the city let a company rent a snow plow truck for $50 a month in the winter to clean their parking lot? How about renting them the city lawnmowers in the summer, the city backhoe to dig holes, the sewer cleaning truck to unclog their drains or the fire department's tanker truck to haul water? The whole time the city would be required to maintain everything in good working order at taxpayer's expense. Wouldn't you admit that would be a great draw for new businesses here in town if they knew the city would give them cheap use of all their PUBLIC equipment just like Berry's getting cheap use of PUBLIC land?

AlterEgo (Anonymous)

Hey mytown. What is the difference from renting space in the park to renting the shelter house at the resevoir? Do the taxpayers not maintain the resevoir? How many money making ventures have rented the shelter house? How many political candidates have had fundraising dinners there? And as far as renting a snow plow, well I know the city will come in an shovel your sidewalks if you don't get them done in an acceptable amount of time. They will bill the crap out of you for it too.

mytown (Anonymous)

I'll tell you what the difference is. I can never think of a time(and I've been living in this town a long time) that the city has given someone sole and exclusive rights for them to monopolize the shelter house for an entire summer, wether it was for the average citizen's use, a company to have a picnic or someone to have a fundraiser. Plus, I can gaurantee that no one was consuming alcohol on a private basis or selling alcohol at the shelter house with the city's blessing. The shelter house has always been on a first come, first serve basis for renting or useage. So before the city gave Berry's a lease for the park did they ask any other business in town if they wanted to rent it? Why didn't the city put it out for bid, just like they do whenever the sell something? Why does Doug Berry rank any higher than any other citizen? Why is Doug Berry's right to monopolize a park any greater than anyone else's? Why does Doug Berry deserve having the city change laws so he can serve alcohol in a public park just to make more money for himself? Since he'll be making more money, will he then turn around and raise his employee's wages or do you think he'll just stick the money in his pocket? My choice would be right in his pocket! If I would pay the city $100 a month during the summer to lease the bench by the fountain in Bresson park and then deny any other taxpayer the right to use that bench that their tax dollars helped build and maintain, would that be right? Think of it, they'd be putting $100 a month in their pocket from me instead of letting those other "nonpayers" use it for free and I promise there would be no alcohol consumed while I was sitting there.

AlterEgo (Anonymous)

First, I don't think Berry's has exclusive rights to the park. As far as I know anyone is still allowed to walk in the park, sit in the park, and enjoy the park. Second, from rhe tone of your post I think you are an angry and jealous person. You are more concern with someone making an extra buck than anything else. And finally, If you would prefer to rent a bench in the park I am sure Mayor Lesch would accomodate you. But since you would only be doing it out of spite you would not be benefitting anyone but yourself, and that would be good because lord know we don't want anyone getting filthy rich off of serving a few beers in this town.

Gutter (Anonymous)

Yeah lets do away with drinking in the park, maybe Berry's will close. Let's do away with it all, ban it before it becomes an issue. I'm sure the Norwalk Economic Director would love that, considering their office is trying to promote growth in uptown Norwalk. Really, why not ban drinking in small park next to a restaurant? (See al fresco, google it) Because some council person doesn't like it? Why not put it on a ballot for the next voting go around? Council persons involved...watch out, we know what happened to the strawberry festival, next they'll punching babies and taking their candy away. What do you expect will happen when you have a beer tent (which did serve a few minors), a band/music and a bunch of people? Of course there will be a few incidents but look at the people it brought to uptown. I personally enjoyed going to the Strawberry Festival and I enjoy going to The Dinky on occasion and having a beer with a meal. Don't ruin something so minor. It's sad to see that the US is so hung up on the idea of alcohol=nudity. You'll see more of that on TV than you ever would in the park with a beer being served with dinner. If some Norwalkians are so out to ban drinking in a gloirfied passthru to a parking lot, why doesn't anyone see something wrong with the Baines Park Softball Teams pounding down beers in the parking lot after a game. Don't give up the fight Berry's! As for city council members, apparently you're stuck 1952, people like a beer or glass of wine with their meals here in 2007.

mytown (Anonymous)

HAHAHAHA an angry and jealous person? I guess you have the angry part right atleast. You bet I'm angry, angry that the city is thinking about allowing someone to sell alcohol in a public park and they're even changing the law to make it happen. So I guess the city has decided to condone the use of alcohol. They'll need to change their signs from "Welcome to Norwalk" to "Welcome to Norwalk, our parks have a 2 drink minimum". It matters not to me what business the city was involved with, what does matter is that the city is selling out the use of public property. Once the city opens that box, it will be almost impossible to close. How could they ever say no to any future city company or group that wanted to rent a park or public space? As long as they cried "it'll help the city in some way" and it wasn't illegal, how could they say no because they let another company lease a public area. Does the city need those kind of headaches?

AlterEgo (Anonymous)

If you honestly believe that it would turn into any company leasing any public park to sell alcohol then you are an idiot. And why shouldn't the city codone the responsible use of alcohol? Isn't alcohol legal? It may not be used responsibly by all people, but it is still legal. This wouldn't make Berry's rich or be an unfair advantage to their business, but the few peope who choose to eat out in the park can not have a beer with their meal. It would not be a group of dip-shits sitting in the park getting drunk.

mytown (Anonymous)

So now I'm an idiot, you have excellent debating skills there. Someone doesn't agree with your point of view and automatically they're less than intelligent. I never made any mention about other companies selling alcohol. My comment was any other business in town would have the right to ask and recieve use of public land for private use if they give into Berry's especailly if they change city law for him to do it. Next thing, call the Mayor this afternoon and ask her if the city condones the consumption of alcohol wether its responsibly used or not. Call Chief Cashen since he represents the law in this town and ask him if he thinks the city should condone the consumption of alcohol. How many people that are arrested for DUI started out in the evening being a "responsible" person? Just because something is "legal" doesn't mean the city has to endorse it. Last time I checked owning a gun was legal but does the city condone the use or carrying of that weapon wether it was properly used or not? One more thing, by your own admission "this won't make Berry's rich", "but a few people who choose to eat out in the park..." so why is the city going through hell to change something that by what you said is making no difference at all for anyone? When did the rights of "a few" suddenly become way more important than the masses? Some day they'll probably change the law but right now I don't think it'll happen. I think putting it on the ballot would be a reat idea too! Let's get it on paper and see how many citizens want their park sold out. I know Doug doesn't want to see that happen or he'd be crying for a vote and not trying to ram this through council. Don't worry AlterEgo, without a doubt someday you'll be one of those people you mentioned in you last sentence sitting on public land swilling a beer. As far as I'm concerned, you already covered the first part, the getting drunk part will just come later?

Gutter (Anonymous)

Would it be better if the Catholic Church asked to use the park? I bet it would, why? Because no one would want to say no to a church organization but they can to Berrys. All the comments about DUI's are killing me. People need to find out what self-control and responsiblility are. Berrys staff won't pour drinks down people's throats. They will however ask if someone would like another drink, which is legal and part of their job as a bartender/server. AlterEgo, I agree that no one would be acting like dipshits...because people that act in that manner don't eat at Berrys from what I've seen....you'd find that crowd at Charlie's getting served (underage too) or fighting at Rupp's Place.

Norwalktaxpayer...

Berry's has a non-exclusive lease...They pay the city $200 a month, but anyone can sit and enjoy the park. I could sit down with a bag of McDonald's food, and eat if I wanted.
If this issue would someday go to the ballot, it would lose handily. What a waste of money it would be too, because placing an issue on any ballot isn't free.

As I've said before, I'm all for progress, but in this case, there's plenty of other things that need to be done to attract more people to downtown Norwalk.
This is very low on the list.

mytown (Anonymous)

I agree Gutter that if everyone truly had self-control and took responsibility for their actions we probably wouldn't need 1/2 to 3/4 of the laws we currently have. Remember back in school when your class was promised you'd get an extra recess period if everyone was on their best behavior? More times than not what happened? Some kid would do something stupid or act up and the teacher would take away a privilege and the whole class would suffer. Unfortunatly we all suffer when someone doesn't use common sense or good judgement, a new law pops up on the books to remind those people what they did was wrong. Come on, in a civilized society should we have a law that tells people they can't stop and urinate in public? We have to tell people that whizzing at a street corner is wrong? DUI and open container laws have to come into existance because a certain group of people don't know how to use self-control or good judgement. People do get drunk in bars and no one is pouring drinks down their throat expect themselves and don't say the Dinky is any different. I've been to the Dinky a number of times and I can tell you I've seen drunk people and people being over served in there. They weren't rowdy, using foul language or picking fights but they were drunk. Does it really matter if the person is a well behaved drunk or a loud obnoxious drunk if they get behind the wheel of a car? Wether they drink in an upscale bar or some dirty hole, if they mow down someone on their way home they're just as guilty.
If the Catholic Church or any other group wanted to to use the park acouple times during the summer for outings or events,(even Berry's minus the alcohol) please do. If the Church asked to lease part of the park for their use all summer long, absolutely not!! The church should get no extra rights or privileges and I'm a Catholic.

JEF (Anonymous)

Norwalktaxpayer: Try Nappanee, IN (www.nappanee.org). I inadvertently added an extra "n" in the previous address. Also, look at Millersburg and Holmes Co. in general. As for competing with the big box stores - many small business owners have discovered that good old fashion service and knowing your customer will act as a counterbalance to low prices every time. You're correct, if a provincial attitude is so widespread locally, what works elsewhere will never work in Norwalk. Without foresight and determination, one might as well raze uptown and plant a corn field and quit attempting to keep it life support.

AlterEgo (Anonymous)

mytown, what is your real problem with having a beer in the park. Do you think Doug Berry is going to get rich and still pay his staff the same wage? Do you think other companies will want to use public properly? Do you think they park will be loaded with degerates getting drunk? This is not a debate, I am trying to make your arguments look foolish. You arguments are not based in fact they are only based in your distaste for Mr Berry or your desire to prevent people from doing something they enjoy, i.e... having a beer with their dinner, because you don't do it. To condone responsible drinking means to make allowance for people to responsibly drink alcohol and those who drink responsibly do not drive when they are drinking. This town is small enough to walk anywhere in a short time and we have 2 taxi service which are also available. Anyone who gets a DUI or DWI are not responsible drinkers.

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