PIC wins appeal, granted liquor license

by Emmitt B. Feldner of The Review staff

SUPPORTERS OF THE Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition applaud after the City Council reversed an earlier denial and granted the city’s last available retail liquor license to the Generations intergenerational center Tuesday. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner SUPPORTERS OF THE Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition applaud after the City Council reversed an earlier denial and granted the city’s last available retail liquor license to the Generations intergenerational center Tuesday. — Review photo by Emmitt B. Feldner PLYMOUTH – It took three months, and it was only by a onevote margin, but the Plymouth Intergenerational Coalition finally got a liquor license for the Generations center Tuesday.

By a 4-3 vote (with Alderman Jack Fernsler absent), the City Council reversed its April denial of the class B license for the intergenerational center after a hearing attended by nearly 50 people, most supporters of granting the license.

The council had cited several reasons for originally denying the license at their April 29 meeting, primarily the presence of day care and pre-school groups in the same building.

City Attorney Crystal Fieber advised the council that they have the leeway, under state law, to grant an exception to allow PIC to have the license.

Tuesday’s meeting was PIC’s first opportunity to appeal the denial and 10 speakers pressed their case before the council.

“From the beginning our vision was to be an inter-generational community center,” PIC Board of Directors Secretary Marsha Vollbrecht told the council. “We have demonstrated we are good community partners and we ask you to act tonight as visionary leaders and good partners to find a way to move us forward.”

Several of the PIC representatives stressed that hosting public events – receptions, reunions, business meetings, etc. - where alcohol would be served was always part of the business plan for Generations.

PIC Treasurer Mary Auchter said that the group had a projected negative balance of $60,000 to $70,000 for 2013 without such events. He said the coalition is confident that deficit can be erased by opening Generations for events where liquor can be sold.

Generations Executive Director Joann Van Horn Wieland noted that the center receives four to rive inquiries a month to rent space for events. “We’ve had to turn people away from the city because we can not provide liquor. We are simply requesting that you allow us to be sustainable as we always planned to be.”

Not all the public comment at the meeting was in favor of granting the license.

“I’m kind of appalled at the idea of a liquor license in a facility that holds a school,” Amber Clark, secretary of the policy council for the Head Start program, stated. “I don’t think it’s a good idea at all for it to be anywhere near children.”

Clark added that she had discussed the issue with the director of the Head Start program (which rents space in the center) and that the director said Head Start might have to pull out of the facility if enough parents felt the same way.

One of those Head Start parents, Katie Hildebrand, echoed Clark’s feelings.

Several PIC supporters countered that the center’s policy would be not to allow liquor to be served before 6 p.m. on weekdays or at any time when children are in the building. They also explained that PIC staff and directors interact regularly with all of the building tenants and would act swiftly to answer any concerns or complaints.

“One of the best ways to solve alcohol abuse is to model responsible alcohol use. I have an awful lot of confidence in all these people,” speaker Donna Counselman added.

The PIC representatives came under close questioning for an event at Generations May 20 for which PIC was granted a one-day license. At that event, liquor was served before 6 p.m. - the hour set on the temporary license – before all children from the day care and pre-school programs were out of the building.

“I have apologized for the mistake that was made to everyone I can,” Van Horn Wieland told the council.

She said the event was sponsored by an outside group, the Gathering Place, which advertised a cash bar starting at 5 p.m.

“That advertising was not approved by me. I know that was an error. I learned a valuable lesson. I learned that we need to monitor the advertising that people using our facility put out,” Van Horn Wieland continued.

Police Chief Jeff Tauscheck told the council the incident had been investigated by one of his officers.

“In this instance, we felt it was best served to give them a warning,” Tauscheck said. “We look on it as a learning tool, to make sure they understand the issue that occurred. It wasn’t anything blatantly to scoff at the council.”

Several council members admitted that they were struggling with the decision.

“I really struggled on this. I’m having a hard time making up my mind but I have a hard time denying the license,” council President Charles Hansen stated.

“This is probably the hardest decision I’ve been faced with in my short time on the council,” firstterm Alderman John Nelson allowed. “I’m right on the fence, but it’s not any slap at PIC if I vote no.”

“I think we need to look at what benefit might occur with Generations having this license, what is the benefit to Plymouth,” Alderman David Williams said.

“Sometimes the financial benefit isn’t as important as the benefit to the community,” added his colleague Jim Sedlacek. “Without a license, that greatly endangers that facility and that’s something that needs to be weighed.”

Alderman Greg Hildebrand, who said he has a granddaughter in the Head Start program, remained adamantly opposed to granting the license.

“Children go downstairs (in the building) and people mix and mingle with those kids throughout the building,” he stated. “It would be a bad idea for the city of Plymouth and surrounding communities. It sends out a bad message that laws and ordinances don’t need to be followed.”

In the end, Alderman Jim Faller joined Hansen, Sedlacek and Williams in voting to grant the license. Sedlacek and Williams had voted to deny the license in April.

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