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Alcohol policy on tap

Last modified: 1/16/2012 12:00:00 AM
This year's Market Days could feature what organizers are billing as a 'local food, wine and beer tent' in Eagle Square.

But first, they have to overcome Concord's longstanding ban on drinking alcohol on public property.

Intown Concord made a formal request this month that the city allow the tent at Market Days, scheduled for July 19-21. The city council last week referred the request to its public safety committee for review.

'Market Days 2012 has, more than at any point in the past, a local focus,' said Kim Murdoch, Intown Concord's interim executive director. 'So the idea for this tent came up in that we're looking to encourage more downtown restaurants to come out and participate in Market Days. In the past, some of the restaurateurs have said it's hard for them to come out for logistical reasons.'

A large tent, she said, would provide facilities for local restaurants to prepare and sell beer, wine and food.

'It's almost like a food court in concept,' she said.

Main Street Concord, as Intown Concord was until recently called, has long wanted to include a beer tent at Market Days. But it's always run aground on a city ordinance that bars drinking alcohol on city property, including parks and streets, to 'deter disorderly and criminal conduct and public nuisances.'

Technically, City Manager Tom Aspell can grant exceptions for specific events. But he's never granted such a request, and he said last week he wouldn't okay Intown Concord's request unless the city council weighs in on the alcohol policy itself.

'To go beyond that, I really think the council should set an overall city policy,' Aspell said.

The issue came up after, in November 2010, the council blocked a request from the organizers of the 1883 Black Ice Pond Hockey Championship to set up a beer tent at White Park.

That led to an internal review of the city's alcohol policy, but Aspell said no recommendation ever made it back to the city council.

He said the council's public safety committee can continue the review in the coming months.

Murdoch said she's hopeful that, in the end, the city will allow organizers to pitch the tent.

'In developing the proposal, we had very informal conversations with the city manager and the mayor and also spoke with (police) Chief (John) Duval to get a sense of what the concerns, what the hesitations might be,' Murdoch said. 'And we did everything we could to mitigate those concerns.'

'We're trying to be very responsive to any concerns they might have,' she said.

Waiting on ice

As of Friday, just two weeks before this year's 1883 Black Ice Pond Hockey Championship, the ice on the pond at White Park still wasn't safe for skating.

But officials say they aren't too concerned.

'The cold weather next week is arriving just in time,' David Gill, Concord's parks and recreation director, said Friday.

The pond-hockey tournament, Jan. 27-29, is expected to draw about 70 teams and thousands of spectators in its second year.

But the city won't declare the White Park pond safe for skaters until the ice is 5 to 6 inches thick, Gill said.

As of Friday, it was at about 4 inches.

The culprit? A warmer than usual winter.

According to the National Weather Service, the average temperature in Concord was 4.1 degrees above normal in November and 4.6 degrees above normal in December.

'Mother Nature this winter has definitely given us lots of curveballs,' Gill said.

Merrimack Center for sale

Looking to buy a Fort Eddy Road shopping plaza? The Merrimack Center is available. The shopping plaza at 89-93 Fort Eddy Road, which includes the Planet Fitness gym and eight other businesses in two buildings, went on the market last spring.

The asking price: about $2.42 million, a little less than its assessed value of nearly $2.43 million.

Broker Wendy Keeler, co-owner of Fairway Real Estate, is handling the sale of the plaza, which is now owned by a trust. She said it's not unusual for commercial property to stay on the market for a year before finding a buyer.

'We currently have some interested buyers in the property, and we have some offers,' Keeler said.

The plaza produces net annual operating income of about $180,000, she said, and has 'a nice mix of tenants' in 'a very desirable location on Fort Eddy Road.'

Stripping for the Special Olympics

For a second year, civic leaders and city officials will sit in a chair made of ice at the Barley House and remove their clothing in exchange for money.

Friday's 'Ice Sit' will feature about 10 members of the Concord's Coolest team, which is raising money for the Special Olympics and will plunge into the frigid Atlantic Ocean on Feb. 5 at Hampton Beach.

'It was absolutely fantastic,' said Murdoch, the team's organizer, of last year's event, which raised more than $2,000. 'There was much uproarious laughter for some time. It was fun for a good cause.'

Each member of the team has to raise a minimum of $350, she said, and donations at Friday's event, which starts at 5:30 p.m., will go toward their totals.

Among the people who will sit in the ice chair and remove layers of clothing for donations: Michael DelloIacono and Steve Shurtleff, both at-large members of the city council; Murdoch herself; Joe Wright and Cori Casey, both Concord police sergeants; 'and we have a few more that are surprises,' Murdoch said.

Could that include Mayor Jim Bouley, who brought in $260 last year when he took his turn in the ice chair?

'I wouldn't rule it out,' Murdoch said.

(Ben Leubsdorf can be reached at 369-3307 or bleubsdorf@cmonitor.com.)


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