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Riverhead Town to tighten alcohol rules at festivals, supervisor says

Chris Ferguson, 30, of Riverhead, gets a beer

Chris Ferguson, 30, of Riverhead, gets a beer for a customer during the 38th annual Polish Town Fair and Polka Festival in Riverhead on Aug. 18,2012. Photo Credit: Michael Cusanelli

Lawmakers in Riverhead will be altering how alcohol is sold at festivals within the town following a local group’s claim that high schoolers have been served alcoholic beverages at such events, according to Town Supervisor Sean Walter.

Felicia Scocozza, executive director of Riverhead Community Awareness Program, says CAP completed a survey of more than 1,000 local students in 2014 to gauge the volume of underage drinking.

“Public events like fairs and festivals were the second-leading place where kids reported drinking alcohol,” Scocozza said. “Of the students who drank, 24 percent of 10th-grade students and 37 percent of 12th-grade students” said they obtained alcohol at a fair or festival, she added. Scocozza said that drinking at home ranked first.

In response to these findings, Walter said the town is planning to require mandatory, nonremovable wristbands once a valid ID has been provided at such events.

“This would make it easier for servers and police,” Walter said. 

CAP would also provide Training for Intervention Procedures for alcoholic beverage servers.

“It teaches servers how to serve responsibly, how to check if a patron is intoxicated and how to check for valid ID,” Scocozza added. “Sometimes you have volunteers that serve maybe once and year and they might not be trained. This helps give servers the confidence and skills they need to serve alcohol responsibly at these events.”

Scocozza said CAP would provide this service free this year.

According to Walter, rising insurance costs for local business owners to serve alcohol at festivals is also a consideration. Making such provisions, he said, would help in that regard.

Currently, local restaurants, bars and brewers are permitted to sell alcohol to festivalgoers in the streets.

“We have five craft breweries in the Town of Riverhead,” Walter said. “We want them to thrive. We don’t want to implement this type of policy in a way that would hurt a fledgling business.”

Greg Martin, co-owner of Long Ireland Beer Company in Riverhead, said their company “fully supports the town in trying to prevent underage drinking.”

“I think having an ID station and bracelets are a much better way to allow people to enjoy the festivals while promoting responsible drinking,” he said.

A formal decision on the policy is expected to be made by the town board within a few weeks, Walter said, to correspond with upcoming events.


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