By Gabriel Monte: CNJ staff writer
Curry County commissioners voted Tuesday in a special meeting against applying for a government liquor license for the fairgrounds and the special event Center.
The vote was 3-2.
County manager Dick Smith said the liquor license, which is similar to the one the city has for its civic center, would help bring in more sponsors for events at the county fairgrounds and the $7 million special events center, which is under construction. The sale of alcohol would depend on the type of events and will also be limited and monitored by fairgrounds staff, he said.
The 85,000-square-foot facility, which is being built on a parcel of land west of the Curry County Fairgrounds, will include nearly 3,500 fixed seats.
Critics said selling alcohol at the fairgrounds would contribute to DWI offenses and promote underage drinking.
“We have more than enough alcohol flowing in this community,” said Phil Teakell, a DWI instructor. “You can say we’re going to limit it, but how are you going to limit it? You cannot limit it; they will sneak out and get a drink.”
Jimmy Joe Robinson, a retired coach, said the event center could be successful without the license.
“Money is not everything,” he said. “If that’s what it takes to make a successful county, then something’s wrong.”
Commissioner Tim Ashley voted against the motion, and said, “I do struggle with the message we send our youth.”
Commissioner Bobby Sandoval doesn’t believe selling alcohol promotes underage drinking.
“The reason (for underage drinking) is not because of liquor licenses but because liquor is not being controlled,” he said. “If a teenager wants to go buy liquor, he’s not going to the events center.”
Commissioner Albin Smith voted no, based on the number of people that showed up at the meeting to ask him to vote against the meeting.
“I have to hear what the voters of the county had to say,” he said. “The way politics seems to work is the world is run by those who show up.”
Smith said the event center’s operational budget counted on sponsorship money the liquor license would bring. He said the county will look into other means of financing the center.
“Obviously, if it doesn’t pay for itself it’s got to come from someplace else,” he said. “It very easily could lead to a tax increase.”
In other business, commissioners approved contract negotiations for the management of the fairgrounds with Global Spectrum of Philadelphia.
Global Spectrum also manages the city’s civic center.
Commissioners who voted in favor of applying for the liquor license:
Commissioners who voted against applying for a liquor license: