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More money, restrictions in St. Paul Park Heritage Days offer

Gone might be the days when Heritage Days festival-goers can walk Broadway Avenue freely with an alcoholic beverage in hand.

The latest development in the ongoing discussion of the event’s future has the city of St. Paul Park and longtime organizer Jim Domeier just shy of an agreement that may limit on-street drinking to the confines of a beer garden.

The catch: the more restrictions the city can set, the more money Domeier will receive to cover festival costs.

With an increase in the number of police calls during the 2013 Heritage Days, city officials and police are looking to make changes, specifically with on-street drinking.

“I think having a beer garden would be extremely helpful,” Police Chief Mike Monahan said, adding it would help put more realistic controls in place.

The City Council last week approved a special events permit for Heritage Days, Inc., the organization run by Domeier, to take on the event this year and opened the door for discussion of a bigger city input of funding.

Historically, the city has donated around $5,000 annually to the event. However, with Domeier speaking with a “new and improved” carnival operator, and the proposal to limit where alcohol can be consumed, the city said it is willing to negotiate added funding, up to $10,000.

“We will negotiate as long as there is that stipulation that there will be change,” City Council member Jeff Swenson said.

The added funding would be budgeted annually and doled out as long as the event became more family friendly.

“Our responsibility is to try to change this so we show the city residents that we are listening to them,” council member Jennifer Cheesman said, referring to a citywide survey that almost unanimously reported a need for change. “We need to make sure we are aware of what the people want.”

During a previous council workshop regarding Heritage Days, Domeier said he would need more money to bring in a new carnival, which cost around $10,000.

Domeier added that the carnival company already promised St. Paul Park five large rides for 2014.

“I think with a more professional carnival you will be able to attract more kids, more families and this event will become more family friendly,” Cheesman said.

While the site of this year’s Heritage Days has yet to be determined, a second option was discussed that addresses concerns some council members had of defacing Veterans Park but still would give event-goers the popular on-street drinking experience.

Domeier and city officials are considering placing the beer tent, or a barricaded drinking area, between Fourth and Fifth streets directly in front of Veterans Park.

Council member Sandi Dingle, who expressed her dislike of the festival taking place at Veterans Park early on in discussions, said hosting an alcohol-driven event there would “be a dishonor to the vets.”

Moving the drinking off Broadway Avenue into a secluded area, Monahan said, would help police better monitor and address incidents.

“I think the time is right to make this change,” Mayor Keith Franke said. “Everybody needs to be more responsible and be held more accountable.”

Domeier said he was in favor of continuing to talk about the new location.

In response to moving drinking off the city’s main thoroughfare, the tractor pull will take its place.

“I think we can work with this,” Domeier said.