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  Comments (2) Total Wednesday Apr. 23, 2014
Whitefish Council Approves Event Permit for Great Northern Brewing’s Beer Barter
4-1 vote overrides decision of City Manager, Police Chief to deny permit at Feb. 8 event.
Troy Nooroa shows off his fire dancing skills at the Black Star Barter in Whitefish. - Photo Courtesy of Black Star Beer.
The Whitefish City Council voted 4-1 Monday to override a decision by the city manager and police chief to deny a special events permit for the Great Northern Brewing Company’s popular annual Beer Barter and Talent Show, held Feb. 8 in downtown Whitefish.

City Manager Chuck Stearns recently denied the event permit at the behest of Whitefish Police Chief Bill Dial, who raised concerns about open containers and underage drinking in previous years.

The council overruled the decision to deny the permit, but applied a host of conditions. They include a $5,000 performance bond the brewery must post to the city, which will not be returned if problems occur, as well as the addition of security officers.

Councilor Richard Hildner cast the sole opposing vote, while Councilor Pam Barberis recused herself.

Prior to the vote, the brewery’s general manager, Marcus Duffey, presented the council with a proposal to address Dial’s concerns over alcohol-related violations at previous events that would add security officers, fortify the barriers of the outdoor beer garden and narrow the hours that the permit remains in effect. Last year, the permit sanctioned an outdoor, open-container area from 11 a.m. until 7 p.m. This year, Duffey requested a permit from 4 p.m. until 7 p.m.

“In 2013, the event obviously weakened the city’s support of the beer barter. We are more than willing to take steps necessary to address these concerns,” Duffey told the council, acknowledging some of the event’s shortcomings in previous years. “We can make this a successful event. I believe that wholeheartedly.”

Duffey said the brewery was recently notified that the permit had been denied. The event was slated to take place in front of the brewery on Central Avenue in downtown Whitefish. The Beer Barter first took place in the late 1990s and was revived in 2011. Last year it attracted nearly 1,000 spectators who watched participants barter talents and items for a year’s supply of beer.

Following the council's decision at its Monday night meeting, Duffey said the event would move forward.

Dial, who leads the annual Whitefish Winter Carnival parade through downtown Whitefish, said recommending that the city deny the permit was a difficult decision. He said he’d raised concerns to Duffey about the event previously, and had to draw the line after those concerns were not addressed.

“This wasn’t an arbitrary decision. It was a very difficult decision to make. I think it’s a great event. However, my job is to protect the public and it’s for the greater good of everybody,” he said.

Although Dial couldn’t provide figures regarding arrests or citations issued during the barter, he relayed an anecdote about spectators lining the street outside of the designated open-container area, attempting to hand him beers as he marched down the street.

“It was out of control,” he said.

Councilor Andy Feury, who introduced the motion to overrule the city’s decision to deny the permit under certain conditions, told Duffey he knew the event could be successful and said it was positive for the community; however, he issued a stern caveat.

“I don’t go against the wisdom and the advice of our city manager and our chief of police very often and I do so with great reservation,” he said. “We know it can work, but we know it can only work if you do your job. And it won't work if you don't do your job like you're supposed to. We all want to see it happen. I like it, I like to go, and it is an event we want to see continue.”

Several community members spoke in favor of approving the permit for the beer barter, during which participants peddle talents in exchange for a year’s supply of beer. Proponents included last year’s winner, Jean Anne Swope.

Swope, a retired Presbyterian minister, offered herself up as an “Ambassa-bar,” agreeing to donate $52 a week to Montana nonprofit organizations for 52 weeks if awarded the year’s supply of beer. She also pledged to travel with her husband to 52 campsites, and share their 52 cases.

“Winter carnival is a fun community event. I have had my children here, I have had my grandchildren here and never a problem,” she said. “Open containers on Central Avenue are not necessarily related to the beer barter. I don’t think we should cut off our nose to spite our face.”
On 02-04-14, ride4fun commented....
Well said, Jean Anne Swope!!  Glad both sides could work together to make this event happen.
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