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Privateers agreement with the city put on hold

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Some bureaucratic red tape with the state Liquor Authority has put the city’s agreement with the Thousand Islands Privateers hockey team on ice.

On Tuesday night, the Watertown City Council could not take any action on the proposed franchise agreement for the Privateers to play at the city’s municipal ice rink next season until a complicated Liquor Authority ruling is straightened out involving beer and wine sales, and the city’s food concession stand.

City officials learned late last week that Savory Beverage and Beyond, the catering company that sells beer and wine at the Federal Hockey League games, also must run the city’s concession stand at the Alex T. Duffy Fairgrounds.

The city could be faced with no longer running a concession stand or Savory losing its license to sell beer and wine at the games, City Manager Sharon A. Addison said following a lengthy discussion at Tuesday night’s meeting.

“This is crazy,” Mayor Jeffrey E. Graham said about the prospect of losing $500 in revenue for each hockey game and having to lay off the concession stand workers from their part-time jobs.

City attorney Robert J. Slye said he tried to resolve the issue with the Liquor Authority for much of Tuesday.

Mr. Slye found out in an email from the Liquor Authority late Tuesday afternoon that the only way around the dilemma may involve “delicensing” Savory any time the Privateers do not have a game scheduled. That would mean providing the state agency with a schedule of all events at the ice rink when the city has the concession stand open, Mr. Slye said.

Councilman Jeffrey M. Smith reminded other council members that last year, they brought in consultant Anthony J. Casale, a former Liquor Authority chairman, to get his advice on how to comply with the agency’s complicated beer sales regulations.

Mr. Smith said he does not understand why the city now is having problems “selling Slim Jims at the concession stand.”

When asked for his advice on what to do, Mr. Slye told council members, “I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t have any answers.”

After the meeting, team owner Nicole E. Kirnan said that she was surprised by having been put into such a complicated situation and that she hoped it will be worked out.

“We’re very confused,” she said.

Unable to approve a new Privateers agreement on Tuesday, council members will resume the discussion next Monday. The issue must be resolved by Feb. 1 or the Liquor Authority ruling would go into effect.

The mayor recommended that Mr. Slye discuss the issue with the Liquor Authority’s attorneys before Monday night’s special meeting. In a series of emails and other communication, Mr. Slye has been dealing directly only with Liquor Authority clerk Wendy Kennedy.

About a month ago, the Liquor Authority started asking for the city to supply paperwork about the arrangement with the hockey team and the catering company.

Ms. Addison said she was surprised when the Liquor Authority told her staff on Friday what it was requiring.

Two years ago, the city’s Parks and Recreation Department took over the concession stand and upgraded it. After failing to make a profit the previous winter, the Watertown Hockey Association bowed out and didn’t renew its contract to operate the stand.

The city has lost money on the venture since taking it over.

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