Beer, wine OK at town hall events

Guests attending the Christmas party at town hall this year will be able to imbibe alcoholic beverages.

Mayor John Fox Sullivan recommended, and town council approved on Monday, a revision to the policy governing the use of town hall that previously barred the consumption of alcohol at events held there.

“I am leading a proposal to amend that to allow the town for town functions the serving of wine, beer and champagne,” he said. Hard liquor wouldn’t be allowed.

Sullivan said he believed those who choose to drink alcohol would be responsible about it.

He noted that the change, when it was first proposed, opened the question of whether it would apply to anyone else. The revision that was approved by council answers that question affirmatively.

Non-profit or public service organizations who use the town hall for functions can seek approval from the town clerk or mayor. The event can’t last more than one night and serving of alcohol can’t start before 1 p.m. and must end at 9 p.m.

Others besides non-profits or public service organizations can apply to town council for the same privilege.

“The applicant shall be responsible for complying with all ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) regulations and requirements, as well as all local, state and federal laws or requirements,” the policy revision states.

The change was approved by a vote of 5 to 1 with council member Gene Leggett absent and over the opposition of Alice Butler, who was concerned about the cost to the town if it provided alcohol for the Christmas event.

Council member Patrick O’Connell said that “it might be an opportunity for one of Virginia’s wineries” to donate beverages to generate goodwill and publicity.

He noted that galleries and historic properties are using their space for functions where alcohol is served and that “it would make the Christmas party more jolly.”

He said if any problems occur the policy can be modified.

Sullivan said that the Christmas party is a “social function and it’s not the intent to make money” by selling alcohol. A permit would be required for that.

Town Attorney John Bennett said in response to questions from council members that the town already has an insurance policy in place and that the consumption of alcohol would be allowed both inside town hall and on the grounds outside.

In a related action, council allowed the expenditure of not more than $1,300 for holiday decorations and to fund the town hall party.
Sullivan added that “Santa has agreed to show up.”

The party this year will be Dec. 12 starting at 5 p.m. It is open to all town residents and anyone who operates a business in town. Sullivan said the event has always had a “pretty good turnout.” There is caroling and food. Some people bring food to share and the town provides some, he said. Town hall, at 485 Gay St., is decorated for the occasion.

CCLC subdivision hearing

In other action, council set a public hearing on a request by the Child Care & Learning Center on Mount Salem Avenue in Washington to subdivide its property. Sullivan said the center plans to sell a portion its land. The request would split off a half acre, leaving a parcel slightly more than 2 acres in size.

The issue will have a public hearing before the town planning commission at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 22 and then come back before town council.

Septic tank abandonment

In other business, Councilman Gary Schwartz reported that 40 to 50 septic tanks have been “abandoned” by property owners as required after they’ve connected to the town sewage system. Another “50 to 60 have not been abandoned for one reason or another,” Schwartz said.

Abandoning a septic tank involves draining it, liming the drain field and crushing the top of the tank. Schwartz said the town can provide information on what needs to be done.

Schwartz said he also has a list of properties that have still not connected to the sewage system.

Sullivan said he’d like to “reach out to them personally” about connecting to the system. Doing so isn’t optional, he noted, but a requirement of the state’s Department of Environmental Quality.

“I’m sensitive to the fact that it costs money. We can be patient if there is an intent that they will do it,” the mayor added.

Council also approved the reappointments of Gary Schwartz, Nevill Turner and Katharine Leggett Miller to the planning commission for four-year terms.

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James Ivancic is a reporter for the Fauquier Times in Warrenton, Va. Contact him at