Fair Board Considering Alcohol Sales for 2011 Fair

By Beacon Staff

The Flathead County Fair Board is considering the idea of selling beer and wine at the 2011 Northwest Montana Fair.

Fair Manager Mark Campbell said the board began discussions about alcohol sales during its April 14 meeting, starting with the question of whether to have a beer garden near the horse races again this year.

Last summer, the beer garden was open just before the horseracing began and closed near the end of the races, Campbell said. It was located behind the country fair kitchen, out of sight of most of the public, he added.

Campbell also said it was the first time in recent memory that the fair served alcoholic beverages.

The fair earned roughly $2,300 from its cut of the concessioner’s earnings, he said, noting that alcohol sales were not a big money maker for the fair but were products many fair participants purchased.

“It’s not something that we make a lot of money from nor is it something we should make a lot of money from,” Campbell said in an interview last week. “It’s a tough issue, and it’s one that we didn’t want to take lightly.”

With that in mind, Campbell said the fair board began discussions early to try and get perspectives on the initial idea of selling alcohol, and if they decide to do so again, whether the sales should be modified or expanded.

One person came in to oppose the idea of any alcohol sales during the April meeting, and Campbell would like to hear both the pros and the cons of the issue from the public.

Campbell invited anyone with thoughts on beer sales to call, email, write or drop by the fair offices. The offices can be reached at 758-5810; more information on electronic contact is available at the fairgrounds website, www.flathead.mt.gov/fairgrounds.

The April discussions should precipitate a May decision, Campbell said.

If the board decides to move forward with the beer garden, the next step would be to find a purveyor to sell the alcohol. Campbell said the concessioner would provide or extend their liability insurance to the county for the event.

Further decisions would be made as far as hours of operation, serving quantities and the location of the sales.

The fair board will not be conducting an official community survey on the idea, Campbell said, so anyone wishing to express their opinion should do so before or at the next meeting on May 12.

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