Longview, TX — The city’s seven-member Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission voted Monday to recommend allowing alcohol sales and consumption at downtown Longview parks, particularly Heritage Plaza.
“I see this as an economic development issue,” Longview resident and retired News-Journal publisher Glenn McCutcheon told commissioners. “If you don’t think alcohol is consumed in Heritage Plaza now, you should go there at AlleyFest and see.”
With Monday’s recommendation, Longview City Council members as early as Sept. 8 can amend ordinances to allow usage or Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission-permitted sales at parks in the central business district. Heritage Plaza is not the only park in the area, but alcohol usage probably would not be considered at Magrill Park — between Green, First, Padon and Grove streets — because it is the Longview Transit public bus transfer station, Community Services Director Laura Hill said.
Commissioners’ unanimous vote was in spite of words from local resident and retiree Bill Keith, who said the last thing Longview needs are more locations for alcohol consumption. Keith said statistics reveal higher levels of hospitalization for people who abuse alcohol and that alcohol consumption is prevalent in as many as four in five homes where child abuse has occurred.
“I think the last thing in the world that this body needs to do is approve alcohol consumption,” Keith said.
McCutcheon countered Keith, saying that after living in East Texas for the past two decades, he is confused by local drinking laws. For example, it is forbidden to bring alcohol to any Longview park including Heritage Plaza, but a non-intoxicated person can drink a beer in the middle of the adjoining street or on the edge of the park. Also, alcohol is consumed by some AlleyFest patrons during the three-day event each spring, he said.
Heritage Plaza was largely unused until the chamber’s downtown director, Elaine Reynolds, opened fall and spring concert series there, McCutcheon said.
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