Pastor warns 'Hell will be opened' on 1st Saturday
By Lynn R. Parks
People took advantage of the Seaford City Council's public comment period Tuesday night to speak out against the council's recent decision to allow alcohol to be served at the chamber of commerce's First Saturday events. Among the speakers was former Mayor Ed Butler.
I am strongly opposed to this idea, Butler said. You are opening a bad door. This needs to be brought up again before the council and discussed.
I see the effects of alcoholism, drugs and prostitution every day, added Carlton Cannon, pastor at the Clarence Street Church of God, Seaford. The public will be the recipient of the negative behavior that we unleash when we [allow] such a thing.
It won't be just Pandora's box that will be opened. Hell will be opened.
Many of the comments were greeted with applause from people in the council chambers.
But Mayor David Genshaw spoke in favor of the events.
I think that all of us [on the council] struggled with the alcohol, he said following the public comment period. But we have to remember that this will be allowed on a specific day, in a specific area. I know that for a lot of you, that doesn't justify it. But people come to us all the time, asking why we can't be more like Berlin, Md., or Milford, to attract people downtown. Those towns are encouraging activity in their downtowns, and they are including alcohol. We feel pressure to do something to generate economic growth. This isn't necessarily something that's going to stay. But we want to try.
The inaugural First Saturday is set for Oct. 3, from noon to 5 p.m. The event, which will include locally made craft beers and wines as well as food, entertainment and craft vendors, will be held on the city-owned lot behind city hall. First Saturday will require attendees to have tickets. People will be carded at the gate and only those with wristbands indicating that they are old enough will be allowed to purchase drinks. Drinks will be a set price; there won't be any all-you-can-drink tickets or cheaper tastings sold.
The chamber will carry insurance on the event, which will cover expenses in case someone is hurt there or damages property.
The city council, at its Aug. 30 meeting, voted to allow an exception to the city's ban on serving alcohol on city-owned property.
Bob Carey is director of Delmarva Teen Challenge, a Christian organization that treats people with drug and alcohol addictions. The Teen Challenge men's residence is at the corner of Third and North streets in East Seaford, just a few blocks away from the First Saturday site.
In drug and alcohol addiction, there's always a gateway, always an open door, that starts the problem, he said. Most addicts tell me that they started out with social drinking. I believe that we have a moral responsibility to see the potential hazards of open-air drinking.
Like Cannon, Carey cautioned that harm will come from allowing the event to serve alcohol. We are introducing hazards into our community, he said. If we allow things like this, we will see an epidemic, the proportions of which have never been seen. And we're doing this to raise money? Is this type of culture what the core of Seaford is really about?
Al Temple is a land surveyor and a member of the chamber of commerce. It's nice for us to promote downtown, he told the city council. But I don't believe that we should promote downtown with the use of alcohol.
Like Butler, Temple asked the council to reconsider. You are setting a poor example if you allow alcohol to be served on public property, he said. Still have the event, but have it without the alcohol.
Dan Southern, minister at the Stein Highway Church of God, said that permitting beer and wine to be served at the event sets a bad precedent. He added that the council did not take enough time to fully study potential long-term effects of public drinking.
The city already has problems that we can't handle: homelessness, heroin, he said. We should put our attention on ways to reduce the many effects of alcohol.
Following the meeting, Genshaw said that for now, the matter is settled. The council is not required to respond to comments made during the public comment session. We take them under advisement, Genshaw said.
If council members feel that they want to readdress the vote to allow the exception to the alcohol ban, they can choose to bring it up at a subsequent meeting, he said.
News tips wanted
Call us with ideas for news and features. We're always looking for good stories to share with readers.
Call Bryant Richardson at 629-9788.