BREC site beer rules may be eased

Having a beer with a round of golf at a BREC course could get a lot easier, if a measure before the East Baton Rouge Parish Recreation and Park Commission Thursday goes forward.

The commission that oversees the parish’s park system will consider a new alcohol policy that, if approved by the Metro Council, would pave the way for alcohol to be sold at golf courses, facility rental sites, and sporting event and tournament sites, according to a copy of the policy.

Currently, parish ordinance generally prohibits alcohol at BREC parks, with some exceptions. Alcohol is permitted under specific conditions at certain BREC facilities, including the Baton Rouge Fairgrounds, the Baton Rouge Gallery, Magnolia Mound Plantation, the Baton Rouge Zoo, Goldsby Field and Santa Maria Golf Course.

People or groups holding events at BREC facilities can apply for approval to serve alcohol at an event. If BREC approves the application, then the request must go to the Metro Council for a special waiver of parish ordinance.

Under the proposed policy, which could take effect as early as May, BREC would be able to sell alcohol at all of its golf courses save one, as well as at 10 facility rental sites and at 11 sport event and tournament site.

Alcohol would be prohibited at J.S. Clark Golf Course, where BREC hosts the First Tee junior golf program; Liberty Lagoon water park; all swimming pools; and Perkins Road Extreme Sports Complex.

BREC Superintendent Carolyn McKnight said in November that selling alcohol at BREC parks could help the system’s bottom line. She said Wednesday that it is difficult to project with accuracy what the financial impact might be. “It would be a wild guess,” she said.

Allowing alcohol sales could help golf courses and rental sites attract more customers, McKnight said. She said BREC loses some potential business because customers don’t want to have to jump through the hoops required now to allow alcohol consumption on BREC property.

BREC Commission member David Guillory said he supports a new policy on alcohol sales at BREC facilities.

“At the end of the day, we want to service customers who are searching for certain venues that we have in a way that will make them come back,” he said. “We have a lot of great facility rental sites.”

Guillory pointed to the Bluebonnet Nature Center and the Baton Rouge Gallery — both on BREC’s proposed list of alcohol sales sites — that could benefit from increased event rentals.

“We looked at other rec commissions around the country and it seemed like the ones that were doing really well were doing this,” he said. “Fiscally, it makes sense.”

Fellow Commissioner Kenneth Riche agreed.

“It will give the superintendent more flexibility as opposed to going in front of the Metro Council every time she wants to do a special event,” he said.

Riche said he didn’t think the financial impact would be as big as some might think.

“It may help a couple of the golf courses,” he said. “I am not looking at it as a huge revenue boom.”

The proposed policy offers several limitations on the sale and consumption of alcohol at BREC sites. Included among them are:

Food must be served in conjunction with the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

At an event with multi-age attendees, alcoholic beverages must be sold and consumed in a designated area.

Alcoholic beverages at Sporting Event and Tournament Sites are allowed only for adult tournaments and programs.

Each site that serves alcohol must provide adequate security and carry a $1 million insurance policy.

The new policy would require a change to parish ordinances, which several Metro Council members said they would support.

“I want to make sure BREC continues that family-friendly atmosphere,” Councilwoman Chauna Banks-Daniel said. But if the alcohol were limited to non-family-oriented events, then she would support it, she said.

Buddy Amoroso said he appreciated the planning that went into the policy.

“It looks pretty well thought out,” he said.

McKnight said she had taken pains to assure council members and members of the community that BREC was taking the necessary precautions.

“We are not talking about opening up bars and having a free-for-all around here,” she said. “I don’t see things getting out of hand.”