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Beer Garden Hours Questioned at Dominican Festival

5/8/17 Caucus & 5/10/17 Council Meeting

PERTH AMBOY – During the 5/8/17 Caucus, Councilman Fernando Irizarry opened up a can of worms in regards to the United Dominicans of Perth Amboy Festival. Irizarry wanted to make an amendment to reduce the hours of the Beer Garden at the Dominican Festival to be held on the dates of August 12, 2017 & August 13, 2017. The hours were supposed to last from 2 p.m. to 9 p.m. on August 12, 2017 and 1 p.m. to 9 p.m. on August 13, 2017. He wanted shorten the hours to end at 7 p.m. The motion was made Fernando Irizarry and seconded by Fernando Gonzalez.

During the 5/10/17 Council Meeting, several people came up to speak about the hardships which would occur if the hours were changed.

Fermin DeJesus, Chairman of the United Dominicans of Perth Amboy asked, “What did other organizations comply with in regards to their Beer Garden hours? Someone is trying to cripple what we are doing. Other organizations were able to have Beer Gardens until 11 p.m.”

Councilman Irizarry answered, “There is a difference between having a liquor license versus a social license. We’re not looking to stop the Dominican Festival. I have proposed to reduce the liquor hours to reduce the number of people leaving the Festival drunk.”

DeJesus replied, “We can lose sponsors because of the reduced hours.”

Irizarry questioned DeJesus, “Isn’t this supposed to be a family event?”

Sergio Diaz, who is on the Festival Committee came up to speak, “There was no concern when people had their Beer Gardens up until 2 a.m. We need the beer sponsors to help pay for the entertainment and security.”

Irizarry spoke again to assure  the organizers, “If the Puerto Rican Festival had the same hours (for a Beer Garden) I would have asked for a reduction of those hours, too.”

S. Diaz continued, “This is a community event that people love and we just ask not to handicap us and treat us just like any other organization.”

Luis Cruz, another Festival Committee Member came up to speak, “We have not had any incidents pertaining to Beer Gardens in the past. We closely monitor the consumption and behavior of those attending. We are a blue collar community. We will not be serving hard liquor or promoting drinking. People come to enjoy the food and music. We already signed contracts months ago and promoted the event on social media based on the contract we signed. We had made adjustments to accommodate what was asked of us.”

Resident Jeremy Baratta came up and agreed with the organizers of the Festival. “People want to come out when it’s cooler and a couple of bad apples shouldn’t ruin it for others.”

The Treasurer of the Dominican Festival came up to add comments, “Changing the Beer Garden hours will affect us. We reduced the (Beer Garden) hours. The beer we serve is very light and we also have wine. The change of hours should have been brought to our attention earlier.”

Resident David Caba came up to speak and said that he agreed with Councilman Irizarry, “Even at stadiums, they stop selling liquor after the seventh inning. If I’m a family man with kids, I may not want to go to an event with large crowds that will have alcohol consumption. If you value money over family, then we shouldn’t do this, but I don’t know the whole details.”

Resident Reinaldo Aviles came up to speak, “Alcohol is part of our lives.” Then addressing Councilman Irizarry, Aviles continued, “Just because you have an issue with alcohol, you may be putting the City up against a lawsuit because of the proposed changes of the Beer Garden hours. The hours that were chosen were to meet the criteria of the beer sponsors. Churches have alcohol at their events. If you want to control the consumption of beer, then you should close the bars early, too. The people running the Festival are part of the community and not outsiders.”

Councilman Jelmin Caba made a motion to change the hours of the Beer Garden for the Festival back to the original hours.

Councilman Joel Pabon had a few comments to make in regards to this matter, “We (the Council) should talk to organizers of all festivals at the beginning of the year. We made a change without knowing the effects it will have on this Festival. We need to look at ordinances in advance if we want to change it. Let them (The United Dominicans of Perth Amboy) have the original hours for this year because of the commitment made to their sponsors, vendors, and entertainers that were made way in advance.”

Councilman Fernando Gonzalez asked the Law Director, Peter King, “Are we opening us up to a liability if we change the hours?”

King responded, “No, but they can do a discrimination suit.”

Councilman Irizarry said, “I will second the motion to change back hours to the original hours based on what was said here tonight. I was thinking about the community first. It was not based on my personal faith.”

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