By Sarah Meyer, PNT Staff Writer
City councilors on Tuesday approved a resolution allowing the Portales MainStreet Organization to host a beer and nut festival on city property.
MainStreet wants to host the event Oct. 25 — the date of Eastern New Mexico University’s homecoming — on the site where the Farmers’ Market is held.
MainStreet organizers are looking for ways to make downtown “alive after 5 p.m.,” said Danny Woodward, the organization’s president and owner of a downtown jewelry store.
Councilors Alfred Bachicha and Jake Lopez questioned the resolution, noting that there is an ordinance that prohibits drinking alcohol on public property.
City Attorney Randy Knudson explained that city code includes an ordinance that allows the council to make an exception by resolution.
“I think this is something we should support,” he said.
Councilor Shawn Watson pointed out that the ordinance allowing such an exception has been on the books since 2004.
“It’s something the council could do, but we’ve never been asked to,” he said.
Mayor Orlando Ortega also spoke in support of the festival.
“MainStreet’s goal is to bring back our downtown with business and activity,” he said. “If we’re going to do something like this, we need to do it right. I have no fear of this festival.”
Still, Lopez objected.
“To me it seems like beer drinking in public is against the law,” he said, noting the possibility of someone drinking too much and getting a DWI. “I’m going to be against it.”
Lopez wanted to know what would happen if somebody else wanted to hold a similar activity.
Ortega said “strict criteria” are in place, and any such request would have to come before the council.
Woodward said the event would be regulated — by state law, with security, and with liability insurance. A licensed vendor — Santa Fe Brewing Co. — will serve the beer and no one under 21 will be permitted in the vending area. “This isn’t bring your own,” Woodward said.
Bachicha said he wasn’t against the event, but objected because city code prohibits drinking in public.
Councilor Dianne Parker said she had mixed feelings about supporting the resolution. However, she said, “After 5 p.m., there’s nothing going on. I want it to be known this is just for this event.”
Councilor Robert de los Santos also spoke in favor of the resolution.
“I’d much rather have it downtown than out at the (Greyhound) stadium,” he said. “I’m comfortable with the way it’s being controlled and monitored.”
Councilors voted 5-2 in favor of the resolution, with Bachicha and Lopez voting no. Councilor Mike Miller was absent.
In other action during Tuesday’s meeting, city councilors:
• Authorized the mayor to sign a grant agreement for $15,000 from the 9th Judicial District Court for Teen Court.
• Approved a resolution supporting Ruidoso Downs Race Track’s quest for equal treatment with Native American casinos.
• Approved a vacation of right of way, eliminating an alley that is platted but has never been used on the north side of town between Spruce and Rose streets and North avenues K and J.
• Authorized the mayor to sign a $16,200 grant agreement with the New Mexico Department of Transportation. The funds will be used to reimburse the police department for overtime associated with DWI enforcement.