MOUNT VERNON — The Knox County Fair Board may soon receive state Division of Liquor Control approval for a “beer garden” during the Knox County Fair, which will be held July 21-27 this year at the Knox County Fairgrounds.
Fair Board President Dustin Beheler discussed the Class F Permit Application process with the Knox County Commissioners on Tuesday, which if approved by the state would allow for a temporary, five-day beer sales permit on the fairgrounds. The F Permit, which carried an application fee of $40, would need to be renewed annually.
Although Knox County owns the fairgrounds, they lease the site to the Fair Board, commissioner President Teresa Bemiller said, which gives the fair board decision-making authority over the matter. Commissioners Bemiller, Thom Collier and Bill Pursel only voted to acknowledge they had received notification of the board’s beer garden F Permit application. The Knox County Sheriff’s Office has already signed off on the permit application and it has also been reviewed by Knox County Prosecuting Attorney Chip McConville.
As proposed, the beer garden design would be 50-feet-by-50-feet, Beheler said, and would be partitioned off by snow fencing. There are three beer garden locations the Fair Board is proposing to use during the fair, with only one location in use at a time. One location will be next to the grandstand, known as Building 52. Another location is the “in-field” area surrounded by the harness racing track. The third location is the “hill area” located just north of the fair buildings.
“We’ve researched this for two years now, through other fairs and seeing how they got along, if they had problems with crime or anything like that. And it’s all been good feedback on that,” Beheler said.
There have also been instances where fairgoers have been caught drinking on the fairgrounds, he noted. “And we feel this way, we can contain them to one spot where it’s legal and we can police them a little bit better.”
Commissioner Thom Collier said at the Fair Board’s expense, sheriff’s auxiliary officers would likely be available to provide security to the beer garden. Beheler said there was no limit on the amount of beers one could purchase, when questioned by Bemiller on the topic. If a beer limit were imposed, it would be up to the Fair Board.
The F Permit application lists Matesich Distributing of Mansfield as the Fair Board’s beer distributor. Glass containers would not be allowable. Sunday sales would not be allowed, Beheler said, and hours of operation for a Tuesday through Saturday schedule have not yet been determined.
Bemiller emphasized that commissioners were only approving the confirmation that they have been notified of the permit application, and not taking a position one way or the other as to its operation.
Pursel noted that the fairgrounds lies in Morris Township, which is a dry township. So McConville checked into the issue and determined that Ohio Revised Code does allow beer sales on a fairground, which takes precedence.
Other county fairs have had large enough beer sales areas to have live bands on hand, but the county’s 50-by-50 foot areas will not be large enough, Beheler said. The Fair Board would pay its beer distributor a contracted fee, but “we will get all of the (sale proceeds),” he added. “It really is going to help our budget out.”
“Our intent is not to have people go over there and get drunk,” Beheler said. “It’s just for people to drink while they watch some events.”
The Fair Board carries its own liability insurance, commissioners noted. Beheler said he expects the state Division of Liquor Control to make its decision within a few weeks.
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