North Huntingdon OKs alcohol by permit in parks

·3 min read

Jul. 22—Beer and wine can flow at gatherings in North Huntingdon parks if someone rents a pavilion, shows proof of liability insurance and obtains a permit.

Township commissioners voted 5-2 Wednesday to approve a policy that creates a permit and criteria for alcohol use by anyone at least 21 years old who rents a pavilion at one of the parks, or sponsors an event there. After a 20-minute debate that, at times turned contentious, commissioners Fran Bevan, Brian Blasko, Zachary Haigis, Virginia Stump and Ronald Zona voted for the alcohol policy, while Jason Atwood and Eric Gass opposed it.

The policy is similar to Murrysville's policy that has been in place for about five years, said Jeff Silka, township manager. He said he also reviewed alcohol permit policies in Monroeville and Robinson.

Murrysville's policy requires the approval of the chief administrator for someone to obtain an alcohol permit. Silka performs a similar role for North Huntingdon.

Those who want a permit must prove they have liability insurance, either through their homeowner's policy or other policy, so the township would not be responsible for any problems.

There will be a $200 deposit the township could withhold if the pavilion is not returned to its condition prior to the gathering, or if any problems are reported by the parks director, public works director or police chief.

For those who would sponsor an event that might have a caterer or food truck provide alcohol , Silka said the policy requires liability insurance from any provider, as well as a permit fee from each vendor. Hard liquor is not permitted.

A zone to restrict drinking to an area around the pavilion would be created, as well as a zone for any sponsored event. Alcohol is not permitted near playgrounds.

The policy opens Oak Hollow Park's six pavilions to alcohol use. Those pavilions can hold between 20 and 150 people. Some neighborhood parks have smaller pavilions.

Gass questioned why the township would prohibit the use of tobacco in the park, as it did in 2019, but would permit people to drink alcohol.

"I've got a problem with that," Gass said, noting the township should protect children from both tobacco and alcohol.

Zona said others in the park could be impacted by second-hand smoke, while alcohol use is more regulated. Two parks that attract children, Kennywood in West Mifflin and Idlewild and Soak Zone in Ligonier Township, sell alcohol, Zona said.

Stump said she is for personal freedom for people to drink alcohol, but they must be responsible for controlling themselves.

"You don't control people's lives by telling them not to drink or smoke," Bevan said.

Atwood, who has been against allowing alcohol in the parks, again repeated his concern for the safety of the children in the park.

"I just don't want some kid getting hurt on the playground because someone got drunk," Atwood said.

Joe Napsha is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Joe at 724-836-5252, or via Twitter .

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