Anna Council plans another vote on proposed beer, wine sales at fair

The Anna City Council again plans to vote on whether or not to take action which would allow for the possible sale of beer and local wines at the annual Union County Fair in Anna.

County fair officials say that such sales will generate much-needed revenue.

The issue was on the agenda at last week’s regular meeting of the city council. The meeting was Tuesday evening, June 6, at Anna City Hall.

Nearly 25 people, including a number of representatives of the county fair, were in attendance at the meeting.

The Union County Fair takes place each year in August at the Anna City Park. Alcohol currently is not allowed at the park.

The council previously had voted twice not to amend the city’s liquor ordinance to allow the sale of beer and local wines. 

The process which would allow for such sales involves action by the council to amend the ordinance. The fair board then would have to apply for a special permit to allow the sales.

Union County Fair board president Mike Yates opened discussion about the possible sale of beer and local wines. The sales would be in a controlled area.

Yates asked the council to reconsider its stand on amending the ordinance.

“We just think it’s something that we need to do,” Yates said. “We’re just here to ask you to reconsider” allowing the fair to sell beer and wine.

Several county fair board members again voiced concerns about the financial status of the fair. The picture is a bleak one, they say, with the possible demise of the fair looming in a few years. The fair’s financial situation also has seen a major hit as the result of declining state funding in recent years.

Fair board treasurer Mike Meisenheimer said that some money has been saved for operation of the event and that operations can continue for a year or two.

Fair board director Ron Knupp, who noted that over the past 10 years, the event has pumped $1 million into the local economy, said the fair now receives “zero funding from the state.”

“We have to find some kind of funding to keep the fair going. Somewhere...we’ve got to get money,” Knupp said.

County fair officials emphasized several times that they want to ensure a secure financial foundation for the event for the benefit of young people. Many young people take part in the fair each year with a wide range of exhibits and other activities – and take home cash awards for their efforts.

“All of the money will go to the kids,” fair board director Terry Henderson said.

Henderson said that without a boost in revenue, the fair could begin a downward spiral and “we won’t come out of it. It’s over, and there’s no coming back.”

“This is a really important decision,” Henderson said. “Why not give us a shot?”

As has been noted in previous discussion about the matter, alcohol already is brought to the fair illegally. 

Council member Brandon Bierstedt said that as it stands now, the alcohol situation is “out of control.” Bierstedt reiterated his view that the fair board should be allowed to try selling beer and local wines. 

Council member Al Kamp said that the majority of people who had spoken to him about the matter were against the sale of alcohol at the fair. Kamp said he wants to act based on what the majority wants.

“The majority of the people are against this,” city council member Martha Ann Webb said. Webb voiced concerns about people consuming alcohol and then going out on the fair grounds.

Webb also wanted to know how much revenue the sales would generate. Fair officials had been told last year that sales could generate in the range of $8,000 to $12,000. They also noted that after sales were to begin, a steady increase in revenue is projected. 

“I just can’t see it,” council member David Isom said about the sale of alcohol. He noted that alcohol has had a major impact on his life.

The availability of alcohol would be strictly controlled, fair officials have promised. If any issues arise, they say the matter will be immediately resolved.

Mayor Steve Hartline said he was confident about the security which would be provided.

Several community members who attended the meeting voiced support for the sale of beer and wine. One person suggested that the sale of beer and local wines at least be allowed for a year.

Council member Isom said that he wanted to see a more detailed plan from the fair board regarding such issues as security and distribution of alcohol. 

A fair board member noted that a plan had been presented a year ago. Fair officials then were advised that no action could be taken unless the city council took action to amend the ordinance.

City attorney John Foley noted during the discussion that a vote on amending the liquor ordinance was not on the agenda for the June 6 meeting, so no formal action could be taken by the council. 

Mayor Steve Hartline said that amending the liquor ordinance would be on the agenda for the city council’s next meeting, which is planned on June 20.

“We will address it one more time,” the mayor said.

As discussion wrapped up, the fair board president and the mayor noted a longstanding spirit of cooperation has existed between the two entities.

Yates said that the fair couldn’t take place without help from the city.

“The City of Anna is always there to help the fair board,” Hartline said.

The Gazette-Democrat

112 Lafayette St.
Anna, Illinois 62906
Office Number: (618) 833-2158
Email: news@annanews.com

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