It has been some time since alcohol sales were permitted at the Cheyenne County Fair, but this year the County Commissioners approved the Fair Board's request to organize a Beer Garden. Fair Board Committee Member Shelly Sutherland prepared an extremely detailed proposal and explained to the commissioners the structure of how the Garden would be operated and the benefits of having a Beer Garden during the evenings of the Fair.
In addition to the full proposal, Sutherland also had a power point presentation, showing visually the structure of how the Garden would be managed, but also detailed photographs showing the boundaries, points of egress and how the area would be arranged depending upon what type of event was happening on a particular night.
Sutherland also went into detail regarding what businesses would be interested in applying to host the Beer Garden, and how simple the Fair Board has made it for an eligible business to get the required license. Sutherland then detailed the responsibilities of the host, such as having enough employees and workers over 21 years of age to work the Garden and manage the flow of customers and checking identification. Security issues were also discussed and addressed, addressing the details of what Nebraska State Law requires of the Beer Garden Host.
Finally, Sutherland detailed the discussions she has had with law enforcement and the data that she obtained concerning potential alcohol-related incidents that might occur at an event like the County Fair. She stated that all of her discussions, and they were extensive, with multiple representatives of Sheriff's Offices in Colorado and Nebraska showed that a Beer Garden is a net positive inclusion to a County Fair, as many people enjoy the availability of beer, and it increases profits that help fund local businesses and other non-profit groups affiliated with the Fair. Statistics showed in every case available, to the Fair in Logan County Colorado, to Scottsbluff that there was no increase in alcohol-related incidents or arrests, and that seemed to be outcome every year. She also compared the results from Sidney's Oktoberfest and Downtown Sounds events, both of which had alcohol sales. Oktoberfest reported no alcohol related arrests, and for Downtown Sounds, 15 special liquor licenses were issued for 2022 and they had not one criminal case as a result of the event.
After Sutherland finished her presentation, the commissioners all noted what a great job of research Sutherland had done on the proposal. Commissioner Darryl Johnson asked about the fencing required to comply with state law, Sutherland noted that the existing fence around the fairground complied with state law, and the areas without the fencing could use a combination of wire and snow fencing to keep within compliance. Sutherland and Tom Payne, Cheyenne County Buildings & Grounds Manager, also discussed how the Elks building at the Fairgrounds could be upgraded to use as a permanent structure for a beer garden as well as be rented for use to interested groups.
Cheyenne County Sheriff Adam Frerichs was in attendance, and asked his opinion about the proposed Beer Garden. He stated that he had also done research and reached out to many law enforcement contacts in Nebraska, and they all confirmed what Sutherland had found, that there's no measurable increase in alcohol-related incidents while there's a big benefit to the Fairs. Commissioner Sanders said that when he was first elected to the Board of Commissioners years ago, there was a very vocal and committed group of constituents that did not want the Fair to have beer and alcohol sales. But he had recently asked around to many people, and could not find one who objected to the Beer Garden. "I guess times have changed," Sanders said.
Sanders did have some reservations, and relayed a story of about being at the Scottsbluff Fair a few years ago and witnessing "Three Falling-Down Drunk Guys" causing a disturbance in the picnic area by the Beer Garden, and how unpleasant it was to see small children and families subjected to that type of incident. Sutherland acknowledged the incident and said that she talked to the Scottsbluff Sheriff about that specific incident, how it happened and how they addressed the problem. The sheriff basically said all that was needed was a few more security personnel to de-escalate and prevent that type of situation, and with a few minor staffing adjustments, they've not had any type of incident since then.
Commissioner Sanders had a few questions about the numbers of entry and exit points, and how they would be managed, and Sutherland responded by saying depending upon the size of the crowd, the egress points can be limited to keep better control of the crowd and make sure all access points are covered. Commissioner Johnson asked if they planned on limiting the number of drinks per person, and how would that be done logistically. Sutherland responded that it would be very difficult to effectively monitor how many drinks individuals had consumed, but state law prohibits over-serving and with the amount of bartenders, law enforcement and security personnel at hand, they did not anticipate any problems.
"This is the best presentation we've ever had. I've always voted "no" to approve Beer Gardens, but I'm very impressed. Which is not to say I'm going to vote yes, though," Commissioner Johnson said to the laughter of the assembled crowd.
The Commissioners then voted to approve the Beer Garden proposal. It was a unanimous 3-to-0 vote. The Commissioners thanked Sutherland for her detailed and well-researched proposal and presentation, and wished the Fair Board great success on the Beer Garden.
Prior to the 2023 Fair Beer Garden proposal, the commissioners approved a request by Jason Juracek for a Special Designated Liquor License for the Sidney Shooting Park annual banquet. They also approved the appointment of three Fair Board alternate members to the Full Board, Ryan Filsinger, Natasha Haupt and Zach Oliveres.
The Commissioners also approved Michelle McMillen's proposal for tree-planting by the 4-H Club at the Cheyenne County Fairgrounds. The initial group of trees would be donated by South Platte NRG, and they were expecting more donations by other groups in the near future. The commissioners approved as long as they consulted with Cheyenne County Buildings & Grounds Manager Tom Payne about the placement of the trees.
New Cheyenne County Assessor Jordan Hajek had a State of Work for a GIS Program, software to help the Assesor's office function more efficiently, and had a contract approved for Appraisal Services with Pritchard & Abbot, Inc. Laura Narjes and Craig Bruner then detailed use of the Fairgrounds for a 4-H shooting program, which was approved.
Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Bill Sydow then discussed revisions to planning and zoning regulations, particularity about Wellhead Protection areas. Some of the changes were formalities requiring re-numbering of certain codes, while others detailed changes to conservation easement regulations. The commissioners decided to review the matters further before taking action.
There were also other discussions regarding use of ARPA funds, approval of Term Dates for Visitors Committee members, an update on county road activities, and a review of price increases for warning sirens in Brownson and Lorenzo.