Police and Fire Commission reiterates support for proposed ID requirement to drink alcohol at festivals
The Port Washington Police and Fire Commission on Monday reiterated its support for the concept of requiring wristbands for anyone drinking alcohol at festivals in the city.
This requirement would demonstrate that the city is sincere in its desire to combat underage drinking, commission members said, adding they will make a recommendation to adopt a wristband program to the Common Council next month.
“We’ll keep talking about this until we’re blue in the face,” commission member Marty Becker said. “I think we have to discuss this at every meeting until it gets done.”
The wristband program was initially suggested for use at this year’s Fish Day — the city’s largest festival — but that proposal was rejected by the city’s Finance and License Committee after the festival’s organizing committee opposed it.
Aldermen lauded the intention but questioned the logistics of the program and suggested the concept be revisited for next year.
“My thoughts are it sends a message that underage drinking and overconsumption isn’t tolerated in our city,” Police Chief Kevin Hingiss said. “I think that’s an important message.”
At this year’s Fish Day, he said, 12 people were cited for underage drinking and one nonprofit organization was cited for serving underage drinkers.
“That’s what we caught,” Hingiss said.
“If the officers caught this many, you can be sure there were four or five times more who didn’t get caught,” Becker said. “The officers can’t catch everybody.”
Hingiss said he had worked with the county’s Public Health Department on the program, which would have required people to show their identification and receive a wristband at one of several booths set up around the Fish Day grounds.
Anyone serving alcoholic beverages at the fish and chips stands would have been able to easily determine if the person purchasing drinks was old enough to do so legally, he said.
Commission member Terry Tietyen questioned whether servers at the stands are licensed bartenders. Most aren’t, he was told.
“If you’re going to have all these people serving alcohol, they should have training,” Hingiss said. “You have to be responsible.”
Becker said many of the older workers in particular serve beers without checking identifications.
“You want a beer, you get a beer,” he said.
Hingiss said he brought the concept to the Fish Day Committee last fall, and while members initially seemed receptive the proposal languished until it was too late to implement this year.
“I gave them plenty of time,” he said.
By working on a policy now, Hingiss said, that won’t happen again next year.
A number of festivals around the area used wristbands, he said, including Brat Days in Sheboygan. He said he intends to discuss the program with them before the September commission meeting to get a sense of how to best implement it.
Commission members questioned why anyone would oppose the program, saying it’s an easy way to ensure those purchasing alcohol are old enough to legally buy it.
“It’s simple — you want a beer, you need a wristband,” Commission Chairman Rick Nelson said.
But, Nelson cautioned, it’s a program that needs the support of everyone to work.
“If everybody’s not going to support this, it’s going to be shot down,” he said.
Commission members said they are poised to recommend to the Finance and License Committee and Common Council that the city require all festivals, not just Fish Day, implement a wristband program.
While they originally talked about requiring it only for events held on city grounds, members said they want to see it at all festivals where alcohol is served and a city permit is required.
That would include church festivals on church grounds, they said.
“We at least want them to consider it,” Nelson said.