Monday, April 13, 2015

The PC: Who'll put the beer in Boomtown?

The PC: Who'll put the beer in Boomtown?

A weekly column by Roger A. Baylor.

There was a first-time event last year in New Albany called Boomtown Ball & Festival. It will be repeated this year, but first, let’s take a look back at the inaugural.

Boomtown took place on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, and was centered on the farmers market space at the corner of Bank and Market. In conjunction with Production Simple, the local band Houndmouth “curated” musical acts. The Flea Off Market set up shop. There was a locally operated beer and libation vending station called Boomtown Tavern, selling (among other choices) NABC’s Houndmouth Ale.

In accordance with Indiana state law, the whole festival area was fenced off (see below), while outside the mandated enclosure, many of downtown New Albany's retail shops, eateries and watering holes observed special hours. By 9:00 p.m., the merriment of Boomtown shifted indoors to The Grand, where Houndmouth played a sold-out show.

The whole kit and caboodle was underwritten by city government, and to know exactly how much it cost, you’d have to ask the mayor. He might even give you a straight answer, although it’s unlikely. At the time, City Hall vowed that Boomtown would become a yearly event, and accordingly, just last week, information was released describing Boomtown Ball Version 2.0, to be held on Sunday, May 24.

BAND BUZZ: Houndmouth to present encore Boomtown Ball & Festival in New Albany

NEW ALBANY — A band with New Albany roots making waves on the national music scene is presenting the second annual Boomtown Ball & Festival, and is curating the event’s music lineup.

Houndmouth, along with New Albany Mayor Jeff Gahan and WFPK, are staging the Sunday, May 24 event, which serves as the kickoff for New Albany’s Bicentennial Park Summer Concert Series, according to a news release from Production Simple.

The release does not state whether Houndmouth will perform at the event.

Early indications are that Houndmouth will not perform at or near Boomtown in 2015, perhaps because the group will be prominently featured at Louisville’s Forecastle music festival in mid-July.

In addition, given that New Albany’s farmers market currently is undergoing a costly and mostly senseless renovation, it appears that Boomtown’s layout must by necessity change. The press release mentions use of Market Street, suggesting that the city will mimic the time-honored Harvest Homecoming pattern of closing Market from State to Bank, and Pearl between Spring and Main, then placing the flea market’s booths along the sidewalks on both sides of the street, in front of existing businesses.

But it’s all guesswork on my part.

Last year, I started sweating these details in February, as it was NABC’s responsibility to procure the alcohol licensing. In 2015, it’s an election year, and I’m mounting an independent campaign for mayor against the very same incumbent who intends Boomtown as a “platform plank” of his own.

Consequently, as Sgt. Hans Schultz once presciently observed, “I know nothing! I see nothing! I hear nothing!"


It’s worth noting that while a supplementary catering permit like NABC’s is useful in such settings, it isn’t the only course. The city itself could obtain a standard temporary permit, and in fact, it just might be doing so as I write this column. There is plenty of time, and yet I’d be remiss (and not at all curmudgeonly) if I missed the opportunity to offer a few helpful pointers.

In Indiana, temporary event planning with adult libations as a component makes perfect sense, at least until the state of Indiana’s laws governing one-off alcoholic beverage serving permits are taken into consideration, and even then, Alcohol & Tobacco Commission guidelines are not overly complicated -- unless one is confronted with the enduring obstinacy of human nature.

Only then does it get weird.

The grounds of a temporary event must be enclosed, typically through the use of portable plastic fencing, and attendees must use delineated points of entry and exit. If the event is intended for all ages, the bar area must also be separated as an over-21-only perimeter.

You can carry your beer from the bar area out into the larger fenced expanse, but not from the festival grounds, so as to wander the streets outside in anarchic fashion. Alcoholic beverages sold within the enclosure are to remain there and not to be carried out. Similarly, alcoholic beverages purchased outside the enclosure are not supposed to be brought inside.

Is this clear? Whomever pulls the temporary alcoholic beverage sales permit is obliged to enforce these rules and risk fines, including the possibility of losing the yearly permit upon which daily business ultimately depends.

It might help to know that the ATC is composed of state police officers with full powers of enforcement. It does not answer to locally elected or appointed officials, who must obey the rules like everyone else. Grains of salt come in handy when they suggest otherwise.

Last year at the first Boomtown, my exasperation level was high. Once, I watched as a civilian walked up to a section of fencing we’d just repaired with zip ties, and began tearing it apart to create her own custom-designed exit.

“Excuse me, but that’s not an exit. It’s a fence.”

“But it isn’t clearly marked.”

True, the state of Indiana hasn’t yet required us to post signs on fences stating THIS IS A FENCE,” and as a lifelong malcontent, I’ve often had the same reaction to fencing as the woman’s. But one looks at reality differently when his company's name is on the festival permit.

On the other side of the Boomtown compound, where families were seated at tables adjacent to the mandated fencing, a green, grassy, open area was only yards away on the other side. I learned that in such situations, children cannot be deterred from destroying fencing to go play in the grass, pushing the fence upward on the crawl while adults mashed it down in pursuit of their wayward kids.

It appears as though this year, these will become the worries of another -- and all the best to you.


At the first Boomtown, our beer, wine and spirits vending area inside the temporary Boomtown fest grounds utilized NABC’s supplementary catering permit, but it was managed as a cooperative made up of several local establishments, which shifted a percentage of the Boomtown bar's combined business to serve as seed money for the New Albany Restaurant & Bar Association – which now exists as a legal entity.

Another portion of NABC’s proceeds went to worthy causes, with recipients including Open Door Youth Services and Rauch Inc.

During the course of my involvement with Boomtown last year, I preached the gospel of heightened communication, which goes a very long way toward reducing confusion to manageable levels, if not eliminating it outright.

I made decisions and urged solutions on the basis of more communication, not less, and in the simple recognition that downtown stakeholders already had issues with unanswered questions pertaining to pre-existing impositions (read: Harvest Homecoming) without needing any more of them.

Our downtown has changed, and we just can’t persist in top-down planning without seeking some measure of consensus first, primarily from those who stand to be affected by the actions being considered.

A good way to start is this question: “Do you mind if we use your space?”

What does any of this have to do with beer? The Indiana ATC’s temporary event requirements are far easier to implement in symmetrical, open areas, apart from the variables embraced by an urban street grid. Whomever interprets the rules for this year’s Boomtown should bear this in mind, because particularly in this application, common sense isn’t always.

I hope it works out, and trust that it will. After so many years on the planning and vending side of the equation, attending an event like Boomtown as a mere spectator may be strange.

A few beers probably will make it better, starting right about now.

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