A plan for a downtown street fair was approved unanimously, and with little to no fanfare, on Monday, belying the pushback that preceded it the week before.
City Council members OK'd a noise variance and letter of intent for “comingling” at the Downtown Development Association’s annual street fair, a family-oriented event scheduled for Aug. 23-24 in downtown Grand Forks. At the fair, workers from Rhombus Guys Brewery and Half Brothers Brewing Company are set to serve canned beers alongside the fair’s many scheduled food vendors, rather than in a specially designated area
Last week, acting as the city’s Committee of the Whole, council members voted 4-1 to send the variance and letter of intent to the council proper. At that meeting, Debbie Swanson, who heads the city’s public health department, told council members last week that exposure to the sale and consumption of alcohol “is a known predictive factor for youth experimenting and adults binge drinking.” She told council members that having alcohol throughout the event, which aims to get families downtown, “exposes youth to a social norm, that we can’t have an event without its presence.”
At that same meeting, Council Member Bret Weber asked Blue Weber, the association’s executive director, a series of clarifying questions about how the fair would serve beer to attendees, and Council Member Sandi Marshall said she shared some of Swanson’s concerns. But the two council members ultimately voted to forward the plan to Monday’s meeting, where it was approved quickly and with no discussion.
The lone dissenting vote last week was from Council Member Katie Dachtler, who voted in favor of the plan on Monday night. She told the Herald that she voted against the plan last week because she had a series of unanswered questions: could the alcohol be moved farther away from areas designed for children? How much alcohol, and in what sized cans, would be in the beers Rhombus and Half Brothers would serve? (Development association staff, Dachtler said, agreed to move the beer vendors farther away, and assured her that both intended to sell beers with relatively low alcohol content.)
“I’m still not thrilled about it,” Dachtler said Monday. “I’d still prefer that the DDA not have comingling in that kind of event because I don’t think that it’s necessary for the event to be successful.”
Weber the DDA head told council members that volunteers will be stationed at the fair’s exits to ensure alcohol doesn’t leave the premises, and that off-duty police officers and private security workers will be on site as well.
In related news, the council:
Approved a slew of “future assessment areas” for a variety of projects -- sanitary sewers, paving projects, street lights, and so on -- in newly annexed parts of the city.
Awarded a $75,000 bid to M&T Fire and Safety, Inc. to buy “AreaRae” kits that can detect hazardous materials.
Allowed the Grand Forks Police Department to submit an application for a grant to buy a second TruNarc handheld narcotics analyzer.