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Booze Up: Palm Coast Government Is Your New Special-Events Bartender

| March 12, 2013

The City of Palm Coast's bar will open for business at special events. (Saloom)

The City of Palm Coast’s bar will open for business at special events. (Saloom)

Palm Coast will go in the booze business, or at least the bartending business, at its special events at Town Center’s Central Park.

With its chosen bartender actually already at the table, the Palm Coast City Council on Tuesday agreed to designate the area as a “civic center,” enabling it to apply for a $250-a-year state consumption license and sell alcohol—beer, wine or higher-proofed liquor—at special events, after applying for a $25-an-event permit (just as other vendors would have to). The city will formalize the decision by adopting an ordinance to that effect at two subsequent council meetings. 

Two weeks ago some members of the council, particularly Jason DeLorenzo, had reservations about the idea. He saw in it too much of a profit motive at special events that were already drawing criticism for being too focused on generating dollars. The coming Rock ‘n Ribfest, hosted by the city in partnership with WNZF and its local radio network, was charging $20 a person at the gate last year, making it difficult for a young family (like DeLorenzo’s) to patronize.

To prove that it’s not about the money, the city is lowering the gate charge to $3 this year. But the city does intend to use its liquor sales to compensate for lost revenue.

“The misconception in the community when this was first proposed a couple of weeks ago,” council member David Ferguson said, “was that it was a profit motive exclusively, and number two, the permit was going to be like a bar license. And now that those have been dispensed with, I think the receptivity to it in my perspective is much better.”

DeLorenzo wasn’t at this morning’s meeting. He’s on vacation (he’d hoped that the matter not be dealt with in his absence). But he’d also said in a brief interview last week that had the lower gate charge been part of the discussion two weeks ago, he, too, would have been more receptive to Palm Coast’s liquor license idea. His other concern was that the city should not be competing with local businesses, non-profits especially, that use special events to generate revenue.

That won’t happen, city officials assured the council, saying other vendors will still be able to sell beer and wine as long as they get a permit. The city will merely be an additional vendor, cashing in on potentially good money. Last year bar sales for Rock ‘n Ribfest generated $16,700. The Seafood festival has generated an average of $8,176. But it’s just as clear that the city is unlikely to place itself in a less than competitive position against other vendors: the city decides who gets to vend where, making it unlikely that it would defer to others for the most optimal selling spots.

For this year’s Rock ‘n Ribfest, the city expects to take in $6,200 in booze revenue, with no projected profit: it will pay $1,250 to its bartender team, the alcohol itself will cost $3,500, and rentals will cost $1,500, according to events coordinator Lisa Gardner. So it’s not clear how alcohol sales are helping bring down the cost at the gate, since they’re not generating money the city can “reinvest” in the event other than for those sales. Gate costs had previously been criticized for being artificially and unnecessarily high.

Council member Bill Lewis asked how the city was managing to bring its gate charge down so drastically.

“It’s a lot of other issues,” Gardner said, “but it’s basically what our total expenses were and what our projections of bringing money in. We don’t have a super high expense this year in talent, where last year we paid a much larger expense for that, so it’s an average of everything.”

Last year 6,000 people came out to Rock ‘n Ribfest, a disappointment. This year the city is adding an additional day and a talent-search type of country music entertainment. The city is expecting to draw between 10,000 and 12,000 visitors.

“By reducing the price from $20 to $3, I think you’re right, we’re going to get a lot more turnout, and a lot more of our residents,” Mayor Jon Netts said. My goal at these events is not to generate profit. My goal is to have fun things for our residents to do and to enjoy the experience. That in itself is commendable.”

Gardner was joined by Mark Woods, the long-time bartender who spent eight years at the Golden Lion in Flagler Beach and launched, in 2011, Fun Coast Bartending. Even before getting the council’s formal approval, the city has made arrangements with Woods to be the bartender at city events, for a flat fee of $1,250 for one event (the equivalent of just over 400 visitors to the event, at $3 per).  

 “Basically what Lisa has asked me to do is to staff and run what I call the beverage pavilion, in order to make it a safe experience for everybody,” Woods said.

To get the state liquor license as a city, Palm Coast had to have a civic center designated for that end. It doesn’t have a civic center. It decided to designate Central Park as one. Council members had raised questions about the legality of doing so, when there is nothing approximating a civic center in that area. It’s a park without so much as a picnic pavilion. City staff collected four examples from around Florida of cities designating various areas as civic centers, including in Lakeland (what Palm Coast staff called the “Lakeland Sports Complex” in its presentation), Jacksonville, Largo and Miramar.

But in at least two of these places, there is an actual building, or several buildings, that fit the mold of traditional civic centers. There is no such thing as the “Lakeland Sports Complex” per se. There is a “Lakeland Center,” which dubs itself “Central Florida’s Sports, Convention and Entertainment Complex,” where conventions are hosted, where such things as the state high school basketball championship has been hosted, and where national stage acts drop in. The Miramar Civic Center and Aquatic Complex is actually a complex of buildings that include City Hall and the city’s cultural center, as well as the aquatic center. Jacksonville Metropolitan Park features a 2,400-square foot reversible stage, “generous sating for any event under its large canopy,” room for banquets, a production office, dressing rooms and a boat-docking area, among other amenities.

The recurring theme Tuesday morning, however, was that the city was aiming only to improve its events, not change their complexion, or make them bigger. 

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25 Responses for “Booze Up: Palm Coast Government Is Your New Special-Events Bartender”

  1. Alfred E Newman says:

    Palm Coast has quite a few cameras at intersections for our safety.
    Now Palm Coast wants to serve alcohol at events.
    Since safety is paramount to PC, I suppose that the city is providing transportation
    for the revelers at the special events. Drinking and driving is unsafe and illegal, you know.

    I guess that we’ll be seeing the Flagler Transit buses at the events, waiting to drive the impaired
    Palm Coasters home! PC loves us!

  2. Baaaaaa says:

    So much for good clean family fun. Now our children will be exposed to sloppy drunks, fights will erupt, and this will put us in danger.

  3. Forest says:

    The city of Sturgis South Dakota owns the only liquor store in town. Palm Coast should think about getting serious money by opening up a City owned Liquor. Store. Why bother with small events turn it into a full time retail. since they are going to sell booze weather public wants it or not. Not much different than a lottery
    Promoting gambling. I’m not for it nor against it. Thier decision will weigh on thier conscious not mine.

  4. downinthelab says:

    Cool, next they could designate the 95/100 interchange as a “civic center” and sell booze to the bums who hang out there. Beats raising my water bill.

  5. So says:

    Is the City going to be an accessory and contribute to driving while intoxicated. Consuming two beers is considered over the limit. Bad decision all around. Pay 2 bartenders $1250 an event. Hey! instead of wasting taxpayers money for a new Flagler School technology tract – start a bar-tending tract. Hope the City is insured.

  6. glad fly says:

    wow the stuff this city comes up with! incredible! you just can’t make this stuff up. i can only assume that since the red light camera bill is on the senate floor to do away with the cameras this is supposed to take it’s place. if you couldn’t laugh you would have to cry. this town is going to hell on a bob sled. remember election day. no more netts. no more landon. their arraogance actually excedes their reputation.

  7. elaygee says:

    When did it become Palm Coast’s government duty to entertain residents? Are the citizens unable to find entertainment on their own?

  8. Pat says:

    Lets see if this is correct. Drunk driving is ILLEGAL and will cause you to go to jail, lose you license, pay HUGE sums of money to feed the judicial system. But Palm Coast officials feel SELLING BOOZE at a City event is a safe and good for the community !……Unbelievable

  9. Jack says:

    I’m pretty sure if you read the article the rock n rib feat AND the seafood feat ALREADY sold alcohol. So why is it any different if another “vendor” is selling. If you take your family to the beach you deal with drunks and fights, if you take your kids to Olive Garden which has a bar there could be drunks or fights, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been to high school football games and no booze are sold and I see kids show up drunk and fight. A majority of people I see comment on here all the time have their head up their you know what and could care less about looking at the big picture but would rather sit back and complain about what other people are doing. Palm coast is years away from being an established town and having tradition, amd the only way we will ever get that tradition is by doing things different than have been done in the past. Cities all over the country have red light cameras, they have the ability to sell booze at events. What makes palm coast so different than those places. If you hate what the city does so much and never agree with it there is no one making you live here. Go find the perfect town where water rates will never rise, no alcohol is sold and there isn’t a single drunk or red light camera, and when you find that place write back to all of us in palm coast and tell us where it is.

  10. Polly Dunkel says:

    This is just great. Palm Coast City Council is certifiably NUTS! You are putting your city at risk of a huge lawsuit should someone have a car accident killing a citizen after drinking at this event. If the voters were aware of the absolutely awful way their city is run, maybe it would call for a REFERENDUM to get rid of the mayor and his cronies. But, alas, citizens are not involved and could care less until they get higher bill!
    Might need a group to advocate for our citizens!!!!!

  11. Magnolia says:

    Ever notice how this Mayor thinks everything he does is “commendable”?

  12. markingthedays says:

    For the record, alcohol is already served at nearly every event in Central Park / Town Center. What did you think was served at the International WINE & Food Festival?

    • Pete says:

      Great…More drugs (booze) for the addicted ! Way to go Palm Coast,,,BRILLIANT MOVE !!! I really believe their during this to catch more drunk drivers so they can get more REVENUE for the court system, jail, and lawyers in this city !!!!!

    • Tina says:

      For the record, alcohol is a DRUG. and a very addictive DRUG, which ruins families and kills people.
      The City of Palm Coast should NOT be in the business of making this worse.

  13. Astounded says:

    I am astounded at the stupidity of this town. After everything is paid for (alcohol, mixers, cups, wages, insurance, clean up, etc) how much does the city hope to make? On the flip side, the city will be actively promoting public intoxication, and set itself up for lawsuits. Why not disallow all sales of alcohol at city sponsored events. Adults can either drink at their own homes or visit one of the many watering holes in town. Why not keep city events for wholesome family fun, free of the legal drug that is alcohol. What next, Amsterdam style reefer cafes at the Town Center? I’m sure that will make the city money too, and probably be safer when violent behavior and automobile accidents are taken into consideration.

  14. Baffled says:

    Sure, people can drink at any event. I I personally don’t drink.. by choice & don’t miss it. Plus the expense. I have other things to spend my money on besides alcohol. But it seems everyone else out there does & in excess, it’s the “in thing” to do. Just like Disney is now selling beer. Perhaps they think they can get more people through the gates with the offer of alcohol. So, let the parents get drunk & drive home with the kids! People have the money to spend, so it’s a win win situation. By the way, there are many beaches in this state that don’t allow drinking, if your caught you will go to jail. Unfortunately I’ve seen this happen to others.

  15. grandmother of 4 says:

    Just wondering if the city of Palm Coast will be required to have dram shop insurance? What will happen when someone gets drunk at a city sponsored function, has an accident and someone is killed? Will the city be liable? Liquor allowed at the park when it is not allowed at the beach? Is liquor sold by the city at a city sponsored function really “family friendly”? We need to get some new people in office!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  16. Reality Check says:

    The point that alcohol is served by other vendors is irrelevant, the City could be hit for a huge civil law suit, the council can spin it any way they want but the almighty dollar is the motive. When we get sued by a family in a mini van who was rear ended by a drunk who says “I purchased it from a City run tent” there goes a million. Oh wait the city can start putting cameras at stop signs next; this is a group of misfits who need to get in touch with reality.

  17. Ralph Belcher says:

    I choose to drink alcohol, and do so responsibly. Very responsibly. So you don’t want me to have any at these functions? I’m in the category of a seldom to social drinker.

    Are you going to also tell me if I want a soda there that it’s got to be 16 ounces or less? (I really don’t favor drinking that awful syrup most the time anyhow). What kind of facial tissue should I use if I need to clear my nasal passages? Paging Commando Bloomburg!!

    Folks, keep an eagle-eye on your liberties. Hold them dearly. There’s always some kind of snarky neighbor who wants to take them away in the name of preventing this or that from occuring no matter how remote the chance (I suppose we’ll just throw conventional risk management out the window..) Onerous oppression…the new order of the day for some in our society.

  18. Sober says:

    Since your a responsibly alcohol drinker (in today’s term: drug user ), maybe you can work for St. John’s county coroner office as the guy who loads the dead bodies into a body bag after they have killed themselves or others in an auto accident because they thought they were “responsible” alcohol drinker.

  19. confidential says:

    At least this time they agree,while our city government wants to sell us beer and the Fed sues trying to keep it affordable:!

  20. Hayward Jablowme says:

    I’m going to get totally wasted at this event and then fall down and crack my head open on the city of “Palm Comptons” sidewalk after being served by the city’s “bartenders” and sue the hell out of this dump they call a city!

  21. PC Resident says:

    Why is it that regardless of the event – our residents turn it into something political. Yes, I agree that drinking and driving is a horrible thing to do but I also don’t blame the city for this. What does the mayor have to do with any of it? Doesn’t it make more sense to sell alcohol then have people sneak it into their cars and drink it irresponsibly. Do you honestly think that if the city event wasn’t selling alcohol that noone would be drinking it.

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