Golf clubs look to expand liquor licenses

by Town Reminder

Golf clubs look to expand liquor licenses
Residents concerned about on-course drinking

By Kristin Will
Staff Writer,

SOUTH HADLEY – An application by The Orchards Golf Club for an Extension of Premises to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages on the course green has residents concerned over potential unsupervised drinking.
The Selectboard held two public hearings last Tuesday to discuss the application for not only The Orchards, but The ledges Golf Club, as well.
Currently, both golf clubs do not have the proper permission to allow the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages outside of their clubhouses, but up until now, have been allowing it. Town Administrator Paul Beecher said the town was only recently made aware of its need to apply for such an extension before it could allow alcoholic beverages on the course. In April 2009, the Alcoholic Beverages Control Commission [ABCC] made a “Commission action” creating guidelines to which it will follow when granting Extension of Premises applications for golf clubs and under Mass General Law chapter 138 section 12.
The appearance of a beverage cart selling an assortment of liquids, including alcoholic beverages, is a common practice on golf courses. Still, residents living close to The Orchards Golf Course are concerned.
“If you grant this extension for a license, you’re going to have people drinking unsupervised,” said Silverwood Terrace resident and Orchards Golf Club Member Alistair Catto, adding it would “increase the likelihood of people driving in an intoxicated manner.”
Orchards Golf Club Member Bill Ingham said the allowance of alcoholic beverages on the green “is no different than any other golf course I’ve been to. If you were not to grant this extension, you would put them [The Orchards] in a class where they are not similar to those in the area.” Ingham said if not granted, the Selectboard would be “devaluing the value of the members. And long-term, you’re going to put The Orchards out of business.”
The Orchards General Manager Jim Stickels said his club’s beverage cart operates mid-day on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, as well as when the golf club hosts a charity event. Last year, The Orchards held 13.
Stickels said his staff is Training for Intervention Procedures [TIPS] certified, which means they are trained to recognize the signs of someone who may have had too much to drink. In the event the staff does find someone who has indeed had too much to drink, the golfer will then no longer be served alcohol. Selectboard Member Frank G. Detoma asked Stickels if there had been any recent incidents in which a member was expelled from the club because of over-drinking. Stickels said there had not been since he took his position in 2005 and he was unaware of incidents where police were called.
Amherst Road resident Bruce Plichta cited an accident which occurred Aug. 28, 2010 when Joe Kareta was struck near the intersection of Brainerd and Alvord streets by Craig A. Barton, 43, of Springfield, who was under the influence of alcohol at the time. He was arrested and charged with manslaughter by motor vehicle, motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, operating under the influence of alcohol for a second offense, a marked lanes violation and speeding.
“This is what happens when you allow drinking at The Orchards,” said Plichta. “Do you want more people to die?”
South Hadley Police Lt. Steven Parentela would not confirm nor deny that Barton was at the Orchards Aug. 28, 2010.
Plichta said he had observed one instance where he witnessed a “drinking station set up at numerous holes.” At that event, Plichta said golfers consumed alcoholic drinks until 4 p.m., at which point they entered the clubhouse. “People were staggering out of the clubhouse,” he said. “It’s best for the town to have a family friendly environment.”
Stickels refuted the description of the alcohol consumption, saying, “it’s grossly exaggerated.”
He added that in regard to complaints about speeding and noise, the golf club sent out letters to its members to be “mindful” of the residents and to maintain safe speeds. “We’re going to remain proactive and I understand we do have neighbors that abut the golf course,” said Stickels.
John Baker, who has played golf for more than 20 years at The Orchards, said he thinks “it’s quieter now than it was 10 to 15 years ago.” He added the Selectboard would be “doing them a disservice” if they denied The Orchards the opportunity to sell alcohol on their course.
The public hearing for The Ledges Golf Club, held prior to The Orchards’ public hearing, was not as heated. Beecher said The Ledges hosts between 10 and 20 tournaments in a typical year.
The Selectboard has the power to approve or deny the applications for Extension of Premises. They did not take action during the public hearings and said they would make motions during their next scheduled meeting on April 7.