A 3-1 majority of
the Porter County Alcohol Beverage Commission cited community opposition in
its decision Thursday not to support a permit to sell alcohol at the
renovated pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park and the proposed banquet
submitted by Pavilion Partners LLC, will now go to the Indiana Alcohol and
Tobacco Commission, with a recommendation to deny, which is expected to
review the permit application on Tuesday, Sept. 29, said Indiana Excise
Officer Jamie Patrick, who is a voting member of the County ABC.
Patrick was the
only “yea” vote for the permit while members Edward Fritz, Ralph Levi and
Rudolph Sutton all voted no.
The board had voted
2-2 initially in June with Patrick and Levi voting yes. The Indiana ATC
kicked the application back to the County ABC because Sutton said he wanted
to have more information.
Over 500 people
were in attendance for the meeting which lasted over four hours. The meeting
was held at the Expo Center as the Indiana ATC had directed the local board
to conduct the meeting at a bigger venue.
Two hours consisted
of comments from the floor, with 45 speaking in opposition, many of them
from Duneland, and five in favor.
During the meeting
Patrick also gave these figures. The ATC board received about 700 emails
against the application and 15 emails in favor. Also received were roughly
500 “letters and cards” urging support for Pavilion Partners and 300 written
or typed letters in opposition.
ABC board members
later questioned the postcards that were printed off for supporters to send
in. Patrick said he had heard an allegation that the postcards were “being
passed out at a casino.”
Principal Chuck Williams said the rumor was “absolutely false” and that “no
one from my team or organization” had done that to his knowledge.
The postcards were
sent out to “family and friends” in mostly Lake, Porter and LaPorte counties
who wished to help, Williams said.
During the public
comment portion, most of the supporters spoke early on.
Visitors Commission Executive Director Lorelei Weimer said an audit in 2005
recommended revamping the pavilion and further input from both the Indiana
and Illinois Restaurant Association advised the pavilion allowed to sell
that the PCCRVC board voted 7-1 in support of the pavilion project.
Forum Director and CEO Heather Ennis that her board unanimously voted in
favor of Pavilion Partners and has faith they will be able to manage their
“We have wonderful
assets and can enjoy them when we act responsibly. There are laws that
protect these interests,” she said.
A recent article
appearing in the New York Times highlighted places of interest surrounding
Lake Michigan and largely ignored Indiana because of the Dunes not having a
Saying the pavilion
will be big economic draw for Northwest Indiana, Lake County South Shore
Visitors Commission CEO Speros Batistatos asked the board to acknowledge
that “alcohol is legal” under the 21st amendment of the U.S. Constitution
and not to listen to any of the “fear mongering.”
Republican Party Executive Director Kenard Taylor, who votes on the ABC when
there is a Valparaiso case, said he lives three blocks from the historic
downtown Valparaiso business district and restaurants there were struggling
until the City allowed special permits for alcohol. Now business is booming
and there are no problems with “drunks walking down the street.”
those involved in Pavilion Partners to be “very responsible.”
For the most part,
the ABC heard a constant stream of concerns about how safety will be
compromised at Dunes State Park with alcohol at the Pavilion and wondering
what will be done to make sure no one intoxicated will walk onto the beach
or in the lake.
The other dominant
grievance spoken is that alcohol would change the park’s character as a
co-founder of Dunes Action group which has been leading the opposition,
presented a petition against the permit with 1,175 signatures.
“(The Dunes) is a
family place now. Alcohol is not allowed in the park,” she said. Both sides
of the aisle agreed that the law does not allow alcohol on the beach, but
Robertson asked the ABC to recognize that the Pavilion itself “sits on the
Another member of
Dunes Action, Norm Hellmers, said that alcohol will be on the beach if a
person drinking leaves the pavilion because “it’s in their bodies.” Hellmers
also said that the application Pavilion Partners submitted for the alcohol
permit should name the investors since it asks for information from anyone
who has an interest in the company.
Former Jackson Twp.
resident Eric Schlene said he looked at the number of citations from the DNR
in Dunes State Park and they have increased since 2010 even though alcohol
Sandra Johnson of
the Woodville Foundation, made up of mostly Liberty Twp. residents, have
announced they are against the project.
Beatrice Owen of
the Porter County Substance Abuse Council said her organization also takes
an opposing stance and named a long list of organization members.
teacher Kristine Petro said she is concerned that alcohol will impair the
educational opportunities that the Dunes Park currently provides.
Margaret Willis told the ABC board she read that they denied an alcohol
permit for the Portage IMAX theater because parents drop their kids off
there. She sees this as a similar matter as many teenagers visit the Dunes
without adult supervision.
Pam Rearick read aloud a letter from Mark McKibben who was the property
manager for Dunes State Park from 1986 to 1990 when the alcohol ban went
into effect. McKibben urged against issuing the permit based on the past
experience with alcohol fueled violence and gang fights at the beach.
A few local
business owners expressed opposition, saying their operations will be
followed up with Williams and his attorney Melissa Coxey on Pavilion
Partners’ intentions to maintain order with alcohol allowed. Williams stated
the company would ultimately be responsible for safety and would hire
At the end, Patrick
asked each member to vote and give an explanation if they were opposed.
Levi, who spent
much time questioning the “100-foot-rule”, said he was voting no because the
Dunes is a “unique area” and it’s apparent the majority of the community
isn’t in favor of the service.
Both Fritz and
Sutton also voted no because of the community opposition, but they and Levi
wanted the public to know that the ABC “is not anti-business.”
“I have to vote no
because the community doesn’t want it,” Sutton said.
Patrick said he
agrees too that the Dunes are unique and doesn’t know if it can be
considered a community, but voted yes because it had been supported by the
County Tourism Bureau and the Northwest Indiana Forum.