Latrobe council considers proposal for alcohol sales at banana split fest
Organizers of Latrobe’s Great American Banana Split Celebration want to sell alcoholic beverages at the annual festival — a proposal city council could vote on by early July.
Isaac McDaniel, director of the Aug. 23-25 event for the Greater Latrobe-Laurel Valley Regional Chamber of Commerce, told council members the idea has been discussed for a few years among celebration planners and vendors from Westmoreland and Indiana counties who are interested in serving beer and wine.
“We know the celebration can grow because of this,” McDaniel said.
According to the proposal, up to a dozen vendors could be at three sites on festival grounds that would be designated for sales and consumption of alcohol.
With council approval, beer and wine could be sold to those 21 or older on a section of Ligonier Street, between Chestnut and Spring streets; a section of Main Street and a bordering lot, across from the Olde Main theatrical space; and a lot bordered by Main Street on the south, Denman Way on the north, Westmoreland Federal Savings on the east and the Dollar General store on the west.
Alcohol sales would end an hour before the festival’s closing time, which for the most part will be 8 p.m. Aug. 23 and 24 and 4 p.m. Aug. 25. McDaniel has proposed extending the sales to 8:30 p.m. Aug. 24 at the lot bordered by Main and Denman because musical entertainment at the location is set to continue until 9:30 p.m.
According to McDaniel, vendors would operate under special event licenses and would be responsible for training servers to verify each customer’s age and to shut off sales to anyone who is visibly intoxicated. Festival staff and volunteers would be stationed to prevent alcohol from being taken outside the designated areas.
Councilman Jim Kelley suggested volunteers be supplemented by city police patrols to help make sure alcohol sales and consumption remains within set boundaries.
“I don’t see a problem if it’s properly watched,” Kelley said.
Latrobe police Chief John Sleasman said he would like to have at least one of his department’s officers rotate among the three locations during times when alcohol will be served. Kelley suggested that cost be added to the fees the vendors must pay to participate in the festival.
McDaniel said those under 21 would be permitted into the areas where alcohol would be served so they could enjoy the musical entertainment. Festival organizers propose providing wristbands to vendors, who could issue them to verified of-age patrons.
Sales would be limited to two alcoholic beverages in a single transaction. But Sleasman pointed out a patron who is at least 21 could purchase two drinks and share one of them with an underage friend.
“I see no problem with someone going to see a concert and having a drink or two,” Sleasman said. But, he added, “If we start arresting people that day, we’re going to shut it down.”
“This is not a chance for somebody to come and become drunk,” McDaniel said. “It’s meant for people to enjoy the music and celebrate Latrobe.”
Vendors must provide liability insurance that includes the festival organization and the city in coverage.
Councilman Eric Bartels said he doesn’t object to people enjoying alcohol while attending a concert but doesn’t think it’s appropriate for the Latrobe event.
“I feel the banana split festival is celebratory without it,” he said.
Council may vote on the issue at its regular July 8 meeting or at a special meeting before then.
The sixth annual Banana Split Celebration includes a 5K run, a car cruise and activities for children.
Visit bananasplitfest.com for more information.
Jeff Himler is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Jeff at 724-836-6622, [email protected] or via Twitter .