SEBRING - Organizations will continue to be able to have events downtown that include alcohol, provided the insurance requirements are met and state law is complied with, the Sebring City Council decided on a 3-1 vote Tuesday night.
Questions involving downtown events, such as wine walks, were raised recently regarding the city's liability and whether such events complied with state alcohol laws.
City Administrator Scott Noethlich said that as long as businesses, which provide the wine during the wine walks, don't sell the alcohol, they do not need a license.
The city also wants organizations putting on such events to have proper insurance that holds the city harmless and that the organization's insurance is primary.
Councilman Andrew Fells said that its apparent events that include alcohol are the ones that draw people into the downtown area.
That may be true, said Councilman John Clark said, while adding that his primary responsibility is to the taxpayers, who may be affected if the city is sued.
The city has waived its open container law in these cases, he said. "That's where we have exposed ourselves."
If the businesses or organizers can't get proper insurance they should not be allowed to hold the events, he said.
Clark said he's concerned the whole situation leaves the city open to a lawsuit.
"Unfortunately, there's too many lawyers out there without enough work to do," he said.
Mayor George Hensley said he favored the city allowing the events because they help downtown.
The council also declined to allow Majestic Cove to have large banner-like type signs. At the same time, some council members noted the city wasn't enforcing the ordinance relating to such signs and that others had such signs.
Some council members said they would consider allowing signs on temporary events, but no council member proposed immediately doing that.
Hensley said he felt the city should deal with existing signs not allowed and possibly set a date by which the signs must be removed.