Elkton Discusses Ordinance to Regulate Single Serve Beer Sales Downtown

Elkton Town Hall, June 9, 2010 – A suggestion that the town pass an ordinance to limit the consumption of single serve containers of beer on streets downtown lead to a discussion about how to handle this problem.  Concerned about the sale of cans which are then consumed outside, Commissioner Jablonski informed the board that she’d pulled two ordinances other municipalities use to regulate that public behavior. “This has got to stop.  That’s what’s hurting our downtown.  They can drink them inside,” the commissioner advised. 

The proposal created a series of questions.  A couple of commissioners thought the ordinance should be for the entire town.  To that the assistant town administrator, Kim Kamp, reported that the District of Columbia lost a similar case in court.  “If we do it, do it for the entire town.  Otherwise it might be discriminatory,” she added.  Arguing that the regulation should solely apply to the central business district, Commissioner Jablonski remarked, “But you don’t have people walking on Route 40.”  Others countered, “Well they’ll just start walking!”

The town attorney, Norman Wilson, noting that he was also the counselor for the liquor board advised that alcohol regulations were the responsibility of that county board.  He suggested the town use laws it already has such as those addressing drinking in public and littering.  “Unless they see them consuming something, they can’t do anything,” Commissioner Jablonski countered as she worried about tying up police resources. 

As the exchange continued Commissioners Jablonski said,  “Do you want people walking around with no shirts, drinking a can of beer in a brown bag, or do you want to eliminate that problem?”  Those remarks caused Mayor Fisona to add, “Let’s do two things at once and go with the no shirt thing.”  That created more uncertainty as someone quickly asked “What’s a shirt.”  The mayor agreed saying, “I don’t want to get into another problem with the ACLU.”

With the pros and cons getting tossed back and forth and members of the board and staff indicating more research was needed on this important matter, Commissioner Jablonski advised, “I’m collecting letters.  I have three right now.”


10 responses to “Elkton Discusses Ordinance to Regulate Single Serve Beer Sales Downtown

  1. Elaine Barclay

    well, why not just enforce existing laws?the town lawyer is hired to give legal advice so elkton doesn’t get sued again, maybe someone should listen to him. worried about tying up police resources? isn’t that what the police are hired to do? all they have to do is walk down the steps leading to the parking lot or walk by the intersection of main and north st. or look over at the parking lot between bow st. and north st. the folks who drink outside are sitting in plain sight . i have been offered a swig from a bottle of vodka more than once while passing by, which i politely turn down. this is often in the afternoon, maybe 1:00 or so. at least they are trying to be sociable, unlike many people you encounter. also what other research needs to be done? they drink right in front of commissioner jablonskis office…how difficult is it to find them and break up this behavior? by the way, this is nothing new, back in the ’70’s the semi-homeless guys sat in a couple of cars parked behind newberrys and drank throughout the day.

    • Elaine: The town attorney definitely had problems with the proposal as it was presented. A couple of times, he said to mention that he wasn’t the enmey on this, he was just pointing out legal problems.

  2. Way to go Elkton! Let’s tackle another major issue—rather then developing the downtown district with new shops and activities—go full steam after those poor sots who want to sit in the shade and enjoy a single sip of suds. Instead of complimenting these delicate drinkers, who are not swilling down an entire six pack or full case of booze, the commissioners want to hunt them down for their voluntary moderation of the fruit of the barley. And it is grossly unfair to zero on those unable to stumble beyond the blocks of the hectic and busy downtown district. I say, round them all up anywhere they can be found—from the shoulders of the multi-lane highways, off the sidewalks in the residential neighborhoods, in the grassy parks and off the curbs at the very edges of the town limits. Fill the jails with these dangerous shirtless swaying lawbreakers. But when the cells are full and there’s little room left in the local jail, just pick up the male offenders but leave those topless female imbibers alone. (I can see the ACLU licking its chops and ready to pounce on the town of Elkton—again.)

  3. Well, it appears to me, that this is a vendeta against one establishment alone, North Street Hotel. It is commonly known that Jim Nicholson is a town activist at the town meetings and has filed a suit against the town. He also has the only establishment downtown, [that I can think of] that sells alcoholic beverages by the can. If you make another law about single purchase drinking, and if you don’t want to “tie up the police” who’s going to enforce it anyway? Why not listen to the attorney for the town, who you are paying for advice? That’s my observation from outside the town.

    • Scotty the discussion about which places were selling single serves was definitely part of the exchange with the commissioners. It was said that there are three downtown outlets and that’s the only one selling single serves. That then lead to practical questions about enforcement. Would the owner be cited or would the person walking out onto the street be the one in violation, one of the staff wanted to know?

  4. Good point, Scotty! Instead of assisting the few local businesses downtown, this ill-thought-out proposal would hurt a long-time, family owned shop with a legacy the town can ill afford to lose. I guess the commissioners would rather have another “For Rent” sign in the downtown bar’s window. With “bright” ideas like these, do these elected leaders really think they’re the brightest minds in the meeting room?

    • Z-man several of the commissioners, along with the staff, were asking appropriate questions about the practicality of this, as well as its legality.

  5. Elaine’s comment is definitely on the mark; enforce the existing laws and the problem is solved. People don’t want to frequent downtown with vagrants hanging around. That is the root of the problem, not the quantity sold.

    Normal Wilson’s advice should be followed.

    • Bob:

      Several times I’ve seen the political leadership take the lead role, diving into public policy matters that need careful consideration. When they do it, it only creates complexity and confusion, as well as challenges for the town.

      Why don’t they turn it over to professional staff. Certainly elected representatives should have the vision and be the driving force for policies they’re pushing. But they need to let those that are academically and professional qualified for the complexities of law and public policy handle the development process.

      Once they get an agreement that a problem exists and perhaps provide some general thoughts on what they think is appropriate, turn it over to the professional staff. The staff would research and develop a recommended policy. Then they’d return to the board with the draft policy for discussion, along with the pros and cons and work out an appropriate solution.

      It is much better if the complexities of public policy are handled by professionals, while the politicians provide the general direction.

      Look at all the trouble Elkton gets into when it just jumps into things. The ACLU homeless thing is one. Think if they’d included Social Services, Law Enforcement, and others in a group to design a solution, how much better it would’ve been.

      There are plenty of other examples where the politicans jump in and the professional staff tries to follow suit, to make things work, but oh my does that cause lots of noise and trouble.

      There’s something to the issue of quality of the environment downtown, but it needs lot of professional designing a carefully crafted solution.

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