Auditorium alcohol request on hold pending liquor liability legal research

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A request to use the city auditorium for a wedding reception serving alcohol was put on hold by the McCook City Council Monday night at the regular meeting.

By a unanimous vote, with Mayor Dennis Berry absent, the council voted to take up the item at the next council meeting April 19, so liquor liability issues could be cleared up.

Currently, alcohol cannot be served on city property without a special liquor license and approval from the City Council.

The postponed item would have allowed Mark Friehe the use of the city auditorium for a June 26 wedding reception with alcohol served, as long as a special designated liquor license and its requirements were approved by the council.

Another related regular agenda item which the council approved on first reading Monday night was a revised ordinance that allows alcohol at the city auditorium upon approval of a special designated liquor license by the city council. The liquor license holder would have insurance coverage on the event or a liquor liabllity on their policy and the city as an additional insured. This would remove liability from the city and place it on the person or caterer with the liquor license.

Councilman Mike Gonzales requested that this ordinance be approved on first reading Monday night, suspending the three readings it usually takes to pass an ordinance. Councilman Gonzales cited the need to expedite the issue so plans for the wedding reception could move forward.

Ordinances do not take effect until 15 days after the final reading.

Councilman Aaron Kircher balked at suspending the readings and instead wanted to continue with three readings. He maintained that all steps should be followed when amending city law.

"We still need to take our time ... do it slow and do it right," he said.

The motion to suspend the three readings failed by 3 to 1, with Councilmen Jerry Calvin, Lonnie Anderson and Gonzales voting for it and Kircher voting against it. Suspending the three reading rule needs a majority vote of 4 to 1, which could not be done with Mayor Berry absent.

The council also approved Monday night, on the first of three readings, another amended city ordinance that increases damage deposits and rental fees at the city auditorium.

Increased fees to rent the main floor, balcony and stage at the auditorium are: non-profit groups and governmental agencies: $50 per day (formerly $25); all others: $150 per day (formerly $75).

Clean-up and damage deposits: $100 for events with no food, drink or alcohol; $400 for events with food and drink; $800 for events serving alcohol ; $800 for dances.

Formerly, alcohol was prohibited in the auditorium and a $200 deposit was required for an event with food and beverages.

In setting the fees, the council was in agreement at a prior meeting to make the fees high enough so the city was not in competition with local businesses and re-coup possible damages.

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  • Wow, those are some high deposits!

    -- Posted by mccookie on Tue, Apr 6, 2010, at 1:01 PM
  • The deposits are nothing if you are responsible renter! How would you like to be a building owner just hoping that your building is taken care of when you're trusting it to others? Also, I wish Friehe would be able to find another venue to hold the reception just to spite Councilman Kircher. "doing it slow" shouldn't have to apply towards a "no brainer" when it's a "win win" situation. Doesn't he realize what it takes to plan a wedding? At this rate, Friehe's won't know until a month before IF they can hold the reception at the auditorium with alcohol served. Talk about undeserved stress.

    -- Posted by Rural Citizen on Tue, Apr 6, 2010, at 1:26 PM
  • When Mayor Berry is well and attends the next meeting I bet with his experience and maturity the council will have the votes to skip three readings and get this thing passed so wedding plans can move foreward.

    -- Posted by dennis on Wed, Apr 7, 2010, at 8:27 AM
  • Excellent idea. Jam through an entire law for a single wedding. We can rename our councilmembers, wedding planners. After all, it's not about the law, it's about the wedding and jamming things through has always worked so well at every other level of government. Good bye prudence, helloooooo good ole boys. Can't wait to see him move "forward" with all that maturity and experience. lol

    -- Posted by hometown1 on Wed, Apr 7, 2010, at 9:32 AM
  • hometown, the issue has been on the city council agenda since at least the last week in February. The next meeting will be at least two and a half months of beating this dead horse. Then it is 15 more days until othe ordinance takes effect so they are setting on this for at least three months. Plus, I know that there are others waiting in the wings on planning events...unless you think three months is jammed through you are incorrect and you are incorrect in thinking it is just for one wedding.

    -- Posted by dennis on Wed, Apr 7, 2010, at 3:46 PM
  • You're wrong about it being on the agenda in February. Go to and look at what was actually discussed. I'm not sure where you're getting your information but it first came up on the 1st meeting in March then the 2nd meeting in March and the latest meeting was the first time there was an ordinance. That makes 1 1/2 months between the first meeting and the next meeting in 2 weeks. Of those 3 meetings that have been held, the mayor was only present for 1 of them so he is the one who has discussed and examined this issue the least out of anyone on the council. He should be the one taking a closer look at it since he has the least experience of what was actually discussed. He shouldn't be riding in, claiming to "save the wedding" at the cost of making sure he actually knows what's been going on at the meetings.

    On the radio, it was said that there were concerns with the liability issue that needed to be addressed first. That's something that couldn't be done if they approved it all at once. They would have had a law then they would have to address the concerns with the law. Sorry but that's just backwards.

    -- Posted by hometown1 on Wed, Apr 7, 2010, at 4:52 PM
  • Hometown. The first meeting in March was March 1st. The agenda was published the last week of February. I would guess that some research and discussion was on that topic even prior to having it on the agenda. So with all due respect it is you who are wrong on the dates. All I am saying is from on or about Feb. 26 until at the earliest now of May 5, it seems like things are not jammed through. I also believe that the mayor would have the same packet of information regarding the issue that all counsemembers get plus hopefully he is in contact with the city staff, other council members and the wedding party he is trying to "save". My guess is that he is well aware of the views of the 3 members who voted yes at the last meeting and the one that voted no. By the time the issue hits the council at the next meeting the concerns with liability will have been addressed and hopefully this issue will be put to sleep, although some in the community and council may want to continue to drag things on as has been done in the past. Hometown, I respect your right to have a different view. This is my last post on this issue as it has gotten plenty of discussion already. Disagreement is ok but if a person usually finds themself as minority then...disagreement is still ok.

    -- Posted by dennis on Wed, Apr 7, 2010, at 7:43 PM
  • Does this town have to swim in alcohol. Does every event have to have alcohol. I am sure there are private venues here that serve alcohol without the council's approval.

    "A city without limits", nah, "Watch this, Yee-haw!!!"

    -- Posted by Hugh Jassle on Fri, Apr 9, 2010, at 7:24 PM
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