Illustration by Ken Walters/Johnson City Press
The Johnson City Sports Foundation has applied for a beer permit, and should the City Commission grant that request in a few weeks, a handful of Anheuser-Busch products will be added to Cardinal Park’s concessions menu.
If the foundation’s plan goes forward, beer sales will begin June 23 at the Johnson City Cardinals’ second 2014 home game against the Danville Braves.
“We’ve had so many requests from customers that we started working toward this,” said foundation President Lee Sowers. “We took our time to make sure our sponsors were OK with it. But yes, it will be added to our menu just like a turkey leg. We won’t be advertising this, and we’re going to be very low key about it.”
Sowers said he expects the request for a beer permit will be on the commission’s June 19 agenda.
Johnson City’s Holston Distributing Co., which offers Anheuser-Busch products, such as Budweiser, Bud Light, Busch Beer, Michelob and Natural Light, has agreed to come onboard as the supplier.
Cardinals General Manager Tyler Parsons said there will be no “beer-hawking,” or vendors walking through the stands selling beer during the Appalachian League games. He said sales will be conducted at one site only, though a specific location has not been chosen. He also said people purchasing beer will be required to show identification and obtain a wristband.
Parsons said he and foundation members spoke with people in the community, including Cardinals fans, before making the move.
“We’ve done our due diligence,” he said. “It helps to broaden our demographic. It helps bring in new fans. Some folks want to have a beer and a hot dog, and the overwhelming majority of minor league baseball teams sell beer.”
He also said any person selling beer will be well-vetted.
“They will be trained and know the laws regarding alcohol sales,” he said. “We will not sell beer on Sundays or Wednesdays. I don’t think it’s going to be an issue. We’ll have security here, and at least one police officer is at all games. We’re going to monitor this. Anybody that has one too many will be escorted out of the park.”
The city owns Cardinal Park, but the Johnson City Sports Foundation manages the Cardinals from June through September.
In June 2013, the Bristol, Va., City Council approved for the first time the sale of beer at city-owned DeVault Memorial Stadium. The baseball park is home to the Bristol Pirates, which shares a spot in the Appalachian League with the Cardinals.
Though suds have been offered at Cardinal Park in the past, that has not been the case for some time. However, Johnson City officials did revisit that possibility at a long-range planning session last year when Bristol announced its intentions. And for the most part, the mood was accepting.
Should beer be allowed at Cardinal Park, seven of the Appy League’s 10 parks will be doing so, including Bristol, Kingsport and Greeneville, Danville and Pulaski, Va., and Burlington, N.C. Parks in Elizabethton and Bluefield and Princeton, W.Va., do not allow beer sales.
Bristol Baseball Inc. President and General Manager Mahlon Luttrell said he received requests to provide beer at games over the last few years, but the driving force behind his public campaign in the end was economic. Lutrell said at the time that instead of burdening customers by raising ticket prices to offset rising insurance and maintenance costs, he chose to offer beer.
Title 8, Section 101 of the Johnson City city code outlaws alcoholic beverages on any public street, sidewalk, school, park, playground, theater, coliseum, stadium or school. It does, however, legally grant the sale of beverages containing an alcoholic content of 5 percent to “be allowed at Cardinal Park on Legion Street in the city of Johnson City during professional baseball games only.”
“Likewise, the consumption of alcoholic beverages of 5 percent alcoholic content by weight or less purchased on-premises at Cardinal Park on Legion Street shall be allowed during professional games only.”
City law does not allow people to bring any alcoholic beverages into Cardinal Park for the purposes of “brown bagging.” Conversely, people are not allowed to carry any alcoholic beverages out of the park. Violators would pay a $50 fine.
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