A majority of Lawrence city commissioners favors teeing up cereal malt beverages at the city's new Eagle Bend Golf Course.
City officials are planning to break the prohibition on booze business in city parks this summer when they approve a permit for selling beer at the new Eagle Bend Golf Course.
The 18-hole municipal course, located on federal land leased to the city below the Clinton Lake dam, will be the first city property with beer sales available for the general public when it opens later this year.
"It's the city commission's call," City Manager Mike Wildgen said.
A majority of Lawrence city commissioners supports plans to sell alcohol -- likely limited to cereal malt beverages -- at the course, even though commissioners recently rejected plans for beer sales at two other city-connected recreation areas: the existing Clinton Lake Softball Complex and the proposed Lawrence Equestrian Center.
Currently, the city allows booze in only two of its buildings -- the Union Pacific Depot and Lawrence Arts Center -- and only then during special events.
Commissioner John Nalbandian, who helped reject beer sales at the softball complex and equestrian center, supports limited bar plans for the golf course.
He said such decisions were made on a "case by case" basis. Nalbandian was concerned about unruly fans at the softball complex and rider safety at the equestrian center.
"You're not going to hurt anybody if you have a beer and play golf," said Nalbandian, a golfer who headed the drive for building a municipal course. "It's not a good idea -- because you don't play good golf that way -- but it's not going to hurt anybody."
Commissioner Marty Kennedy and Mayor Bonnie Augustine also support selling alcohol at the course. The two golfers also were the only two commissioners to support plans for selling beer at the softball complex and equestrian center.
"I think you can drink responsibly and play golf," Mayor Bonnie Augustine said.
But Commissioner Bob Moody, who opposed construction of the course in the first place, said the city shouldn't get into the booze business at all.
"I don't think the sale of alcohol and city recreation mix, period," Moody said. "What value is it? Does it enhance the recreational opportunities afforded by the city? I don't think so."
19th hole awaits
Safety concerns should not be cause for worry, said Fred DeVictor, the city's director of Parks and Recreation. He figures most of the alcohol consumption will occur after play, whether it's for a weekend tournament or following a quick nine after work.
"For some, after they play golf ... they like to sit and compare scores and chat and talk over a beer," DeVictor said. "We will operate a safe environment. We'll have marshals and attendants. We won't allow a drunk to be out affecting the golf play."
Since the course's inception, officials have planned to sell alcohol in the clubhouse and snack bar. The construction contract even calls for installing beer taps in the clubhouse.
Municipal Golf Inc., which built the course, recommended serving beer, wine and liquor to generate part of the nearly $95,000 in food and beverage sales estimated for the course's first year of operation. The company estimated golfers would spend about $2.90 per round for food and beverages.
"If they did not have those sales, it would definitely impact the revenues of the course -- not only through those lost sales but also through the loss of rounds of golf," said Tim Burke, president of Municipal Golf in Omaha. "Some players -- obviously a minimum -- but some players would go to a course that sells alcohol."
Details to come
The particulars of the service are yet to be worked out. Wildgen envisions selling beer only, while others continue planning for the possibility of hard liquor.
The city currently is seeking to hire a club pro/course manager, who will be responsible for overseeing operations of all features at the course, including the snack bar and clubhouse.
City officials also are working to annex the course's property into the city, as part of a sweeping 1,129-acre request going before the Lawrence-Douglas County Planning Commission later this month. If approved in time, city officials would be approving their own permits.
If not, the issue would go to the Douglas County Commission for approval.
Either way, Wildgen said, officials have much more to worry about than turning on the taps at Eagle Bend. Construction crews are still working on the clubhouse, cart storage area and maintenance building, and the course's grass needs warm weather before growing into playing condition.
"Beer out there isn't going to make or break this golf course," Wildgen said.
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