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SANDY — The Sandy City Council this week voted to allow concertgoers to buy beer at the Sandy Amphitheater during certain concerts.
The vote came after amphitheater officials and concert promoters lobbied the council to allow them to sell alcohol in a venue where they say liquor is already being sneaked in on a regular basis.
"We all know that people bring alcohol in all the time," Councilwoman Maren Barker said before she and her colleagues voted 6-1 to change an ordinance affecting the amphitheater at 1245 E. 9400 South.
The ordinance change allows concert promoters and concessionaires to apply for single-event alcohol permits through the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control. Previously, Sandy's ordinance wouldn't allow alcohol on the property.
Amphitheater officials said they will only sell beer with 3.2 percent alcohol by weight — and no "heavy" beer.
"One of the most asked questions over the years at the amphitheater has been, 'Where can I buy a beer?'" Mearle Marsh, the amphitheater's director, wrote in a memo to Sandy. "In our patron surveys when we ask, 'What can we do better?' the top response is — sell beer."
And yet, even though alcohol hasn't been allowed in the venue, Marsh wrote that the venue hasn't exactly been "dry." Because the venue allows outside food to maintain a community feel, "This has led to the unintended consequence of people 'sneaking' alcohol into the venue," he wrote.
"Currently, we don't have the ability to check every back, and if we did, how do you know what someone has in their thermos or McDonalds cup?" Marsh wrote.
Marsh stressed that alcohol has been "illegally" consumed at the amphitheater in past years. "We are working to get this under control," he wrote.
The special permit would allow amphitheater officials to check bags and not allow any outside alcohol into the venue.
"When we sell the alcohol, we will be better able to control the amount of consumption by keeping out personal supplies, monitoring the number of drinks and setting a time to stop sales," Marsh wrote. "This will help prevent patrons from drinking too much and becoming a distraction."
Even with the ordinance change, Marsh said beer will not be sold at every event. Rather, amphitheater officials will target events that have the best chance at success, such as national acts or country acts.
"As part of our communication with the patrons, it will be clear whether alcohol will be sold or not at a specific event," Marsh wrote.
Resident Monica Zoltanski spoke in favor of the ordinance change, urging the council to allow responsible drinking.
"Let adults be adults," she said.
Councilman Zach Robinson said he's heard a lot of positive feedback from Sandy residents on the issue and expressed his intention to vote in favor of the ordinance.
"The thing I like most is we're adding rights to an area, and I think this will be beneficial to the amphitheater," Robinson said, adding that he would like to see it implemented citywide, but he realized "that's probably a little stickier."
Councilman Chris McCandless was the only council member to vote against the ordinance change.