The Watertown Wizards won't be selling beer and wine at the Tragically Hip concert that the Disabled Persons Action Organization will present June 24 at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.
The Watertown City Council passed a resolution Monday night that gives the franchise agreement for the Tragically Hip concert to the Jefferson County Agricultural Society, the organization that runs the county fair at the city-owned fairgrounds.
Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham, who has been critical of the way alcohol has been sold at the fairgrounds, voted against the measure.
The city, DPAO and the fair organization intend to continue the arrangement for the Reba McEntire show July 23, said Joseph L. Rich, vice president of the DPAO board and its fundraising coordinator.
"We don't want to sell beer," Mr. Rich said. "We want to concentrate on the concerts."
Two weeks ago, council members approved a new pact with the Wizards to play the collegiate summer baseball team's season at the fairgrounds but changed the team's contract so that the city could reserve the right to select what organization would hold the alcohol franchise for outdoor events.
Contacted at home, Wizards co-owner Paul A. Simmons, who wasn't at the council meeting, said he was told by Mr. Rich late last week that the fair group would take over the alcohol sales.
"It's going to hurt, yes," Mr. Simmons said. "We're going to have to do what we have to do" to make up for those revenue losses.
Council members had to hurry to take Monday night's action because the fair group needs to meet a state deadline by today to obtain the license to sell beer and wine coolers at the Tragically Hip concert or the concert would go dry, Mr. Rich said.
The parties still must work out details for the July 23 Reba McEntire concert. The Agricultural Society also agreed to submit some additional information about its alcohol liability insurance that the city needs by today for the June 24 show.
Since learning that, Mr. Rich decided to approach the fair group to sell beer and wine for the outdoor concerts, he said after the meeting. Robert D. Simpson, president of the Agricultural Society, said that the organization agreed to do it.
Mr. Simpson said that the city will continue to get 10 percent of the beer and wine sales and that DPAO and his organization then will split the profits equally. Noting it costs $1.1 million to bring the concerts here, Mr. Rich said it was a better arrangement for DPAO, pointing out that it can share more in the money made on alcohol.
The franchise agreement will not include the Steve Martin and the Steep Canyon Rangers concert June 29, which will be held in the ice arena. There, the alcohol sales most likely will be handled by the town of Watertown volunteer fire department, Mr. Rich said.
After the meeting, Mr. Graham said he was "still uncomfortable" with the way the alcohol sales have been handled, suggesting that the city bring in an attorney who has the legal expertise on state alcohol laws so the city knows it's protected.
Council members have been dissatisfied with the Wizards' handling of alcohol sales at the concerts, saying the city always had to take the word of the team for how much money was owed to the city.
They have been especially critical of team operators after learning in April that the Wizards owed more than $46,000 for use of the fairgrounds dating back to the 2002 season. That spurred an audit of the city's Parks and Recreation Department, and auditors then found major bookkeeping and accounting problems that had gone on for years in the department.
It also was announced Monday night that Parks and Recreation Superintendent Jayme M. St. Croix — as he had said in April — will officially retire later this year.
In other action, the council granted an exemption to Raymonda J. Deskowitz that allows her to park vehicles on the paved margin in front of her home at 1214 Bronson St. Council members recently lifted the ban for a few Thompson Boulevard residents.