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Beer sale plan for Kennywood challenged

| Friday, June 8, 2012, 9:18 a.m.

A local state senator wants more opportunity for the public to weigh in on Kennywood Park's decision to sell beer.

State Sen. Jim Ferlo, D-Highland Park, filed a petition of opposition with the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board this week over the transfer of a liquor license from a now-closed restaurant in McKeesport to the century-old West Mifflin amusement park. In a letter to the board, he called for a public hearing before the LCB gives beer sales its blessing.

"I think (alcohol) is really going to change the nature of the experience there," Ferlo said. "Can't people pick a day to be in a family environment with their kids or grandkids, without alcohol?"

In April, West Mifflin council approved transferring the liquor license held by Cavanaugh's, a McKeesport restaurant and caterer purchased by the family that had owned Kennywood. When Madrid, Spain-based Parques Reunidos SA purchased Kennywood in 2008, the restaurant, since closed, came with it.

"(Ferlo) is concerned for the youth," West Mifflin Mayor Chris Kelly said. "Fine, but where was he when Heinz Field and PNC Park filed for (their) alcohol permits? Has he ever been to a tailgate party at Heinz?"

LCB staff members were reviewing everything that was submitted before the period for written comments ended May 21, spokeswoman Stacey Witalec said. If the comments raise major concerns, the board could schedule a formal public hearing.

Mon Yough Area Chamber of Commerce CEO Maury Burgwin didn't think people would pay $40 to go to the park and get drunk."I'm not going to be there pounding down beers," Burgwin said. "I'm going to be there with my son and just ride the rides."

Kennywood spokesman Jeff Filicko said that, regardless of when and whether the license transfer is approved, beer would not be sold until school picnics at the park are over in July. A fenced-in area near the Lagoon has been built for beer sales, he said, and if the license is approved, staff working in that area would undergo extra training with the LCB.

"We reached out to Sen. Ferlo with a letter and phone call to his Pittsburgh and Harrisburg offices to express our willingness to discuss his thoughts and concerns," Filicko said.

Kennywood sold beer for the first time last fall during Oktoberfest-themed events. It used a catering event permit from its sister Sandcastle Waterpark, which has a license for its Sandbar.

Staff writers Patrick Cloonan and Eric Slagle contributed to this story.

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