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Gettysburg  Nixes Open Alcohol Idea

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After a meeting in which several council members said they had made up their minds after hearing from constituents who opposed the idea, the Gettysburg Borough Council voted on Monday against the idea of allowing the outdoor consumption of alcohol.

The vote was 4 to 3, with councilmembers Matt Moon, Patti Lawson, and Chad-Alan Carr voting in favor.

The plan had been to have an 8 month pilot test around Lincoln Square, but some councilmembers said the idea was unworkable and could cause problems.

Moon and Carr said most people they had heard from were positive about the idea and that they had received a petition from over 60 local residents who favored the plan.

Councilmember Patti Lawson said she thought the proposal would help tourism and that she had talked to a police officer in Carlisle who said the similar ordinance enacted there had caused no problems that he was aware of. “I don’t see a reason to not give it a shot,” she said.

Carr noted the plan was only for a short pilot program that could be ended immediately if problems ensued.

Before voting against the proposal, councilmembers Judie Butterfield and John Lawver said people they had heard from were opposed.  Council President Wes Heyser said there were likely to be problems with enforcement.

“I’m against this.  I’ll be voting ‘no’,” said Councilmember Chris Berger. “I don’t see open containers in the square as being a part of a vision of what Gettysburg is about.”

Police Chief Robert Glenny and Major Rita Frealing also spoke against the idea before the vote. “I’m against anything that eases the availability of alcohol,” said Glenny. “I foresee issues of additional public drunkenness, underage (drinking), and calls for people going outside the designated area. I foresee litter. I am generally opposed to the open containers,” he said.

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Charles Stangor is Gettysburg Connection's Publisher and Editor in Chief.

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  • Pay attention Gettysburg because I expect they will try to pass the open container ordinance again. So here are 4 points about the ordinance and the rationale stated by the council members who voted for it.

    1. Patti Lawson stated “As stewards of this town, council members need to look toward a changing economic future.” Equating open container with some kind of economic boon is specious. They don’t explain — because they can’t — how the ordinance will produce this supposed economic benefit for the town. In reality, the ordinance would likely result in lost business to local restaurants. Visitors can buy their beer and alcohol at Giant and the liquor stores and keep it in coolers in their cars when walking around town or just sit on the Square and have a tailgating party. Why pay 3 or 4 times as much in a local bar or restaurant?

    2. They say don’t worry about increased public intoxication and underage drinking – there are existing laws for that. The existing laws are how you deal with it when it happens – not a way to mitigate it in the first place. If a 21 year old is in a bar with friends who are not yet 21, none of the group will be served alcohol. That is the law and there are employees there to enforce it. But with this ordinance in place, they would be able to walk around town drinking together from the cooler in the back of their car. So their argument is don’t worry, folks – we can always arrest them. That’s if you catch them… hopefully before they drive drunk and have maimed or killed someone and the borough is sued for millions for not enforcing the ordinance.

    3. They say that Carlisle has a similar ordinance, is a college town and doesn’t have problems. Carlisle does not have the historic prestige of Gettysburg and Carlisle does not have 1 to 3 million visitors annually.

    4. The last and most significant reason for not passing this ordinance is the inability to enforce it and the liability that results from that failure – the hallmark of a bad law. There is no way the Gettysburg police have enough personnel to assign an officer or two to walk the streets all afternoon and into the evening and early morning hours. And that’s just on Lincoln Square and one block off in each direction. Imagine if they passed this ordinance borough-wide, which, by the way, the businesses left out are already demanding.

    As for Matt Moon’s statement that this feels like when dancing was banned in Footloose…… Since you have never been able to walk around town legally drinking alcohol, how is that being taken from you? You can still walk around town dancing. You just can’t walk around town dancing and legally drinking alcohol.

    If council members really are the stewards of this borough and it’s economic future, they would let this ordinance lie right where it is: defeated.

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