The Thornapple Arts Council’s revised request to the Hastings City Council to allow the sale of alcohol at the Thornapple Plaza during some events got a motion to approve it, but there was no second, so the request died.
However in public comment, Director of the Arts Council Megan Lavell said she would “like to have a conversation with the council, to find a way to see what it is we can do to assuage your fears or concerns about having alcohol at the Plaza…The goal of the Thornapple Plaza is to make it a destination and to bring in people from outside into Hastings, as well as draw people who live here...I don’t know what other concerns you might have…I would like to know what it is that we can further answer for you.”
The Baum Family Foundation financed the Plaza; Larry Baum, supports the idea of alcohol at events there. “As far as the public’s concern, I’m with a couple of other organizations, one in transportation and cars and we applied for a liquor license…and it’s been very profitable for us, we have not had any personal problems with it, we’ve not have any accidents with it… we just had an event where there were thousands of motorcycles… same thing, never had a single incident with the people that were there, there were no incidents after the event. So, I really don’t see where it is a detriment to the community. It could be a great fund raiser for the Plaza and bring more people in…I’d like to meet with any of the council that have questions,” Baum said.
Mayor Frank Campbell urged council members, “to meet individually, we can’t meet as a group, but talk to Megan and Larry…each council person at their convenience…before the next council meeting and try to get on the same page…and bring it back to the next council meeting.”
“As long as you are willing to consider, at least talk to us about it, that’s all we ask, and if we can convince you fine, and it we can’t, that’s up to the council,” Baum said. //
Background on alcohol at the Plaza: At its meeting two weeks ago, the council voiced several objections to alcohol at the Plaza, including allowing alcohol at events designed for families, which would include children, non-profits competing with local businesses and the lack of barriers in the area where alcohol would be served.
In a letter to the council June 13, Lavell outlined changes to the original plan including a new diagram of the refreshment area, staff approved barriers around the area and volunteers to monitor entry and exit points. Also, wrist bands for those over 21 who drink, a two drink limit and stopping alcohol service at 8:30 p.m., a half hour or so before the concert ends.
Councilman David Tossava supported the concept saying an event “would be a lot different than the Summerfest beer tent, it is the kind of environment where I don’t think you are going to see any anybody abuse alcohol down there, and I think that’s a big issue with anyone here.”
Council Bill Redman talked to 101 people and “out of that 101, 32 said “yes,” 55 said “no” and 14 said, “they didn’t care.” So it almost, but not quite, two to one against it having it down there, so I think that lack of a second pretty well takes care of the situation.”
Councilwoman Therese Maupin-Moore talked to people in her ward who all said “no” and of the people from outside the city she asked, three said “no” and two said “whatever you want to do.” One business owner said they didn’t know if it would affect their business one way or the other.