Amended ordinance allows library to serve alcohol

By: Jeremy Selweski | Woodward Talk | Published March 19, 2013


FERNDALE — The Ferndale Public Library will now be able to serve alcohol at a handful of special events in order to raise additional revenue for its programs and services.

On March 11, the City Council unanimously approved an amendment to the city’s ordinance regulating alcohol possession and consumption in public places to allow alcoholic beverages to be served in facilities that have a lease agreement with the city. However, according to City Manager April Lynch, the only buildings in Ferndale that fit this description are the library and the Detroit Curling Club.

Mayor Dave Coulter stressed that, even with the amended ordinance in place, all requests to serve alcohol at special events must still come before the council for approval.

“Just in case the library wants to be doing this on a regular basis, we can tell them ‘no’ if it becomes excessive,” he explained. “That’s why we wanted to make sure that they have to come before us and ask for permission every time. It’s very much our intent that this will not become a regular occurrence, so we still have the ability to reject any proposals that do not seem appropriate.”

After approving the amended ordinance, the council also granted the library’s request to serve alcohol at a pair of upcoming events: its annual celebration commemorating the Day of Books and Roses April 21 and the 15th annual Metro Times Blowout from May 2-4, which is expanding into Ferndale for the first time this year. The library will be selling wine at the former event and beer at the latter, where it will serve as a live music venue. Library officials are still awaiting approval from the Michigan Liquor Control Commission for both events, however.

Library Director Jessica Keyser believes that, by adding alcohol sales to the mix, these types of events will provide a much-needed financial boost for the library.

“Our revenues have declined every year for the last several years, mostly because of declining property values in the city,” she noted. “But at the same time, our demand and use have continued to increase. So, having the option of serving alcohol at some events will really help us with fundraising for the library.”

Keyser added that the library does not have any other events involving alcohol sales planned right now, and that it is only a coincidence that the Day of Books and Roses and the Metro Times Blowout are only two weeks apart.

“We don’t have any intention of turning the library into a bar or anything like that,” she said. “We definitely aren’t planning to do events like this very frequently — no more than a few times per year. We always want these events to be cultural in nature and consistent with our mission as a library to be a cultural center for the Ferndale community.”

Lynch pointed out that the city’s previous ordinance prohibited all alcohol possession and consumption in public facilities. However, after the council allowed the library to serve alcohol at last year’s Day of Books and Roses, City Attorney Dan Christ advised them to amend the ordinance so that the city would not be violating its own regulations.

In May 2008, the council denied a request by the Ferndale Recreation Department to obtain a liquor license for the Kulick Community Center, citing a desire to maintain a family-friendly, all-ages atmosphere at the facility. Recreation officials made the proposal as a way to accommodate frequent requests from residents to hold events such as baby showers, wedding receptions and senior group meetings at the Kulick Center.

Councilman Scott Galloway was one of those who voted against the proposal in a narrow 3-to-2 decision, but he insisted that the Recreation Department’s liquor license request was quite different than this new amended ordinance.

“My argument then and now was that the risk of allowing alcohol sales of that nature would not be a good idea because the potential risks would greatly outweigh the benefits,” he said. “This ordinance is merely allowing the library to serve alcohol at city-approved events; it’s not a gateway to hosting bachelor parties and wedding receptions at the Kulick Center or anything like that. We’re not trying to create a banquet-hall situation here.”

In fact, as Lynch explained, the Kulick Center is not even eligible to serve alcohol under the amended ordinance because it is a city-owned facility. This is different than the library, which leases its building from the city but is a separate entity with its own governing body.

“In most communities, alcohol is not permitted in public buildings at all, which is why we had to change our ordinance to allow for this,” she said. “The library is being very responsible with this privilege so far, but you just never know for sure. We want to be very careful that they don’t just start serving alcohol whenever they want.”