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Proposal would limit time for outdoor drinking at Maritime Festival

Concerned about the amount of drinking at past events, the Greenport Village Board is planning to reduce the hours where residents can carry open containers of alcohol at this fall’s Maritime Festival.

The proposed change — limiting open alcohol containers to between noon and 6 p.m. when the festival ends —would only be in effect Sunday.

In the past, the open container permission ran from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on both weekend days. The board is not proposing to change the Saturday hours.

The Maritime Festival is run by the nonprofit East End Seaport Museum and Maritime Foundation in mid-September and will be entering its 29th year this fall.

At its next meeting Thursday, the Village Board plans to vote on the public assembly permit for Sept. 22 and 23, as well as the suspension of the open container law — which bans public consumption of alcohol — within the festival parameters.

Trustees Mary Bess Phillips and Doug Roberts both said they’ve heard a lot of complaints about the amount of drinking at prior year’s festivals, although Mr. Roberts plans to recuse himself from Thursday’s vote because he owns a restaurant that serves alcohol.

“I should recuse because of my business,” he said. “However, my position is potentially one that runs against my business making a profit, because as a trustee, I’ve heard a ton of people raise real concerns about whether we can continue to do this.”

He said he’d rather be able to contain where people are drinking the alcohol they purchased from his business, he said.

“People are saying that the festival has changed from the festival celebrating our maritime heritage to a Vegas-style beer fest,” Mr. Roberts said.

According to Mayor George Hubbard Jr., businesses can still service alcohol that’s consumed within the premise beginning at 10 a.m., under the state’s “blue laws.”

But they can’t take drinks outside until noon, under the change being proposed.

Ms. Phillips suggested the village could be liable if someone gets drunk at the festival and then has an accident elsewhere.

Village Attorney Joe Prokop said he never comments when asked about liability.

Mr. Hubbard said the village wouldn’t be liable because it didn’t serve the alcohol.

Ms. Phillips said by having the vote at Thursday’s village board meeting, the board would be able to hear feedback from the East End Seaport Museum leaders and from the public.

“Sometimes, we don’t need to do drastic measures, we just need to do small changes and see how they come out,” she said.

A call seeking comment from the Seaport Museum was not immediately returned.

Greenport is not the only local municipality that’s raised concerns about public drinking at festivals.

For the past few years, Riverhead Town has required that alcohol purchased at festivals like the Country Fair, Polish Town Fair and Alive on 25 be consumed within outdoor “beer pens” on the sites.

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