Berkeleyans who enjoy the annual beer-fest at Civic Center Park may have to hang up their steins for good if an amendment to ban the sale of alcohol in city parks gets adopted in September.
Roused by neighborhood complaints and security problems, the City Council went ahead and adopted an ordinance Tuesday night to help prevent disturbances from large private parties and events in city parks, sans language prohibiting alcohol sale – for now.
A Parks and Recreation Commission recommendation to amend the ordinance to prohibit the sale of alcohol at any event in a city park was pulled from the consent calendar for closer review, and sent back to staff to come up with a more comprehensive policy.
That policy would ban alcohol under any circumstance in city parks, and is supported by Councilmember Dona Spring.
Under the ordinance, Spring said organizers may obtain a permit to hold events where alcohol can be sold only if they have a license with the Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and provided adequate security.
“Drinking alcohol in public parks is illegal,” she said. “Why should we let someone get a permit (to sell alcohol). This is not consistent, we have to apply the law equally.”
Spring said the staff will report back to the council sometime in September when she hopes to make the new amendment a regulation.
The Council hopes the ordinance will keep in check the number of problems at the city’s parks, including several large parties and “raves” at Cordornices and Cesar Chavez Parks that resulted in violence, trash and noise over the past few years.
Assistant City Attorney Zach Cowan said that many of the problems resulted from easy-to-get permits.
He said that the big parties and raves were required to have permits, though some occurred without permits, but it was a much more “general” permit.
“This gives us a few more tools to use,” he said.
Under the new ordinance, park events are defined as “any assembly of 50 or more adults or teenagers within a 500-foot radius, except in Cesar Chavez Park, Aquatic Park and Civic Center Park where an event must have at least 100 or more adults or teenagers within a 500-foot radius before it is regulated.” This contrasts with the existing ordinance, which sets no lower limit on the size of regulated events.
And problematic events are now defined as ones that “require the assignment of six patrol officers between 11 a.m. and 2 a.m., or three patrol officers at any other time to quell.” It also authorizes the city manager to impose an administrative penalty of up to $10,000 on the sponsors of such events.
Another new twist is that the ordinance “prohibits the issuance of a park event permit to any person who has been involved in a problematic event within 12 months.”
Spring said she thinks the “no alcohol” amendment will help significantly. Besides, it “sets a bad example for our young people,” she said.
“There is a real serious problem at UC and other campuses across the country (from) binge-drinking,” she said. “This isn’t helping.”