“The city doesn't allow drinking in public, but is there a rule against selling alcohol?”
This question prompted a discussion at Chouteau's Board of Trustees meeting last Monday. Chief Lynn Hershberger presented the topic to the board after being approached by the Black Buggy Days committee. A vendor approached the committee about having a wine tasting or selling wine at the event.
Black Buggy Days is a festival held in Chouteau every fall and features music, tractor pulls, arts and crafts, food, cow patty bingo, turtle races and much more. The event is Saturday, Sept. 21, at Guy Williams Park in Chouteau and is said to have “something for the entire family.”
The Black Buggy Day website says it began in 2002 as a festival to promote the town of Chouteau.
“What makes Chouteau different from other communities in our area is the Amish population. Our town motto says it all, “where cultures come together,” the website says.
“City ordinance does not allow drinking alcohol in public but I could not find an ordinance that prohibits selling alcohol,” said Hershberger. “The closest thing I could find is an occupational tax that is charged per day on vendors selling alcohol.”
“Has anyone asked the Amish, isn't this their thing?” said board member Brenda Cunningham, who has held a position on the committee in years past.
Board member Cecil Lane reiterated that absolutely no alcohol can be consumed at the event and Mayor Jerry Floyd said he's not sure a family event is the right place to be selling alcohol of any kind.
The board asked whether it was their jurisdiction to make the decision at all.
Town attorney Ben Sherrer said the town has the capacity to make the determination, should the Black Buggy Days committee decline to do so since the event is held at the town park.
“If someone wants to pay the occupational tax, they could feasibly sell, but we are not talking about a business establishment but rather a small event,” said Sherrer. “But yes, the board has the jurisdiction to determine the policy. It's really up to you and whether you feel like selling wine fits in the motif of the event.”
Cunningham said she had “absolutely no idea what to think about this,” but that she would feel better knowing whether the Amish approved.
A Chouteau resident present at the meeting told the board that “nearly every festival” sells wine now and that it's not standard liquor store fare but is usually from a local winery.
“As the Chamber of Commerce president, I vote no,” said Nita Morris.
Floyd told her that the COC is no longer affiliated with the event.
“However, I fear that if it is sold out there it will be consumed out there,” said Floyd.
Lane said he had an issue with the wording on the agenda, “bottled wine and/or other alcoholic beverages.”
Town Clerk Cherry Dry said if the board approved it for Black Buggy Days, it would have to approve selling alcohol at every other festival and event.
“I'd see it making sense at other festivals before this one,” said Cunningham.
Upon Sherrer's call for a vote, Floyd made a motion to approve the request. The motion died for lack of a second.
With no other members willing to make a motion, the board had no choice but to take no action on the topic.