Eric Williams

Inverness City Manager Eric Williams 

The tap will continue to flow at Inverness’ annual Cooter Festival after the city council this week approved the Kiwanis Club of Inverness’ request to serve beer and wine at the popular event. Some Inverness elected officials wanted to turn off that tap and make it a dry event.

The club’s treasurer, David Monier, told the council during its regularly scheduled meeting this week that the nonprofit had a long history of helping youth groups and other local charities and wanted permission to serve beer at the Cooter Festival at Liberty Park to continue its financial support of organizations. Three of the five council members agreed to allow the nonprofit to sell beer and wine. Two objected, as well as the mayor.

“If it’s going to be a big event, we want to be a part of it,” Monier told the council.

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While there was no vote on the issue, City Manager Eric Williams said he understood the council’s direction and would work out the details and report back.

Mayor Bob Plaisted and council members Jacquie Hepfer and Ken Hinkle objected to the alcohol sale, but were not able to convince the majority three other council members. The mayor cannot vote.

Councilman Cabot McBride said he supported the Kiwanis Club request because alcohol abuse had never been a problem at the event.

He said he understood the other council members’ concerns, but “I think we need to look at the overall character of the community ... the support is there.”

Council president David Ryan said he would support allowing beer sales at the Cooter Festival’s Liberty and Wallace Brooks park site this year.

“We haven’t seen anybody falling down drunk,” Ryan said.

Ryan said he understood the city’s attempt to make the Cooter Festival in October a family friendly event, but did not think beer precluded that.

But Plaisted said while he’s always supported nonprofit groups in their endeavor to help the community, he thought the city’s latest Independence Day ban on alcohol at the Depot District parks signaled to visitors that city events were family-oriented.

On July 3, the city allowed the business district to sell alcohol, but did not allow patrons to carry cups to Liberty or Wallace Brooks parks.

Hepfer said the Cooter Festival event to be held at the Depot District’s parks should be alcohol-free.

“We’re obviously not a bunch of old prudes,” she said, but told Williams and council members about alcohol-related complaints she received during the past few years.

Williams said he would work to arrange the beer and wine sales to minimize any chance of abuse.

That means limiting beer and wine sales to Saturday and Sunday of the three-day Cooter Festival, he said.

Friday alcohol sales will be reserved for downtown businesses, he said.

In addition, the city can also station the Kiwanis Club beer and wine truck at the pavilion between the two Depot District parks and away from the Liberty Park playground and the park’s popular open field.

Williams said he would carefully monitor the Cooter Festival beer sales and see if there was any misbehavior, and report any to the council to consider when deciding on future festivals and events.  

Contact Chronicle reporter Fred Hiers at fred.hiers@chronicleonline.com or 352-397-5914.