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City Council ponders age-old alcohol questions
It's an age-old question, and it won't be answered any time soon.
Should drinking be allowed in public? More specifically, should alcohol be allowed on city property?
The McCook City Council is considering revamping its policy to allow alcohol at the auditorium, under special, controlled circumstances.
Because the fairgrounds are inside the city limits, the council also gave the go-ahead for a beer garden -- also operated under controlled circumstances -- to be operated at the McCook Speedway.
The auditorium question arose in connection with a request for a wedding reception to be held there, including alcohol -- a tradition as old as Jesus' first miracle of turning water into wine.
The fairgrounds question arose in an effort to boost revenues for the racetrack, an activity that will bring hundreds of fans and add thousands of dollars to the local economy over the upcoming racing season.
A few years back, a request by an arts group to serve wine at the senior citizens center created a minor flap. And, despite the "German" Heritage Days tradition in McCook, a Norris Park beer garden has been a non-starter.
Other downtown beer gardens have been an odd exercise, with drinkers cordoned off from the rest of the crowd with cattle panels like exhibits in a zoo.
Several bars and restaurants have created a better beer-garden atmosphere in recent years, however, by combining it with a desire to allow smoking at their establishments, something that can only be accomplished legally by moving it outdoors.
A valid argument can be made that it's irresponsible for adults to preach alcohol abstinence to people under 20 years old on one hand, while engaging in public consumption on the other.
And, in conservative Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas, the number of people who might be attracted by the availability of alcohol just might be balanced or exceeded by the number who will stay away for the same reason.
But, as one vendor pointed out, those who hold the liquor license have a vital interest in seeing that alcohol is used responsibility and distributed only to those of legal age.
And, allowing alcohol at public events certainly helps remove any mystique it holds for underage kids, and gives them a chance to observe adults using it responsibly -- as well as consequences for those who don't.
Prohibition didn't work -- it only helped undermine respect for authority and provide a lucrative market for organized crime.
Allowing the responsible use of alcohol on public property offers citizens of legal age the chance to enjoy one of the freedoms our nation is supposed to provide.