Trillium citation sets First Friday precedent

August 13, 2005

Trillium Cafe is the first Hood River business to be fined for liquor server violations during a First Friday event.

This week, inspectors from the Oregon Liquor Control Commission (OLCC) subjected Trillium to either a 3-day suspension of its liquor service or a $395 penalty.

However, OLCC spokesperson Ken Palke said the fine could be reduced to two days or $297 since the pub has no other infractions on its record.

Palke said the penalty is being imposed because inspectors observed patrons leaving the premises with glasses of alcohol on the evening of Aug. 5.

“You’re not going to know where that alcohol is going once it leaves your sight.

It could be passed off to someone else who will get behind the wheel and be too impaired to drive,” said Palke. “Alcohol is a controlled substance and the law needs to be obeyed to be sure that it is used safely.”

Trillium owners David and Michelle Hanel said in almost seven years, the business has maintained an outstanding service record.

In an Aug. 11 letter to Francis and Joanie Thomson, coordinator of the Downtown Business Association (DBA), Michelle stated the DBA and city leaders had created a “flaw” by allowing people to walk around the streets with open containers of alcohol — or samples they were given at area businesses. Since this quickly became the normal routine, the Hanels contend it is unfair that bar owners shoulder the entire burden of monitoring crowd movement.

“My husband, David, and his family have done nothing in this community without putting the welfare of the people first and we, in turn, would never do anything to tarnish such a legacy. The sense of family, safety and security are what we all strive for by living in the Gorge,” wrote Hanel.

City Manager Bob Francis said the OLCC sanction against Trillium should be viewed as another First Friday “growing pain.” What began four years ago as a small group of people browsing through shops along the first six blocks of Oak Street has drastically evolved. Now, the roadway is closed to traffic from 5 to 8 p.m. so between 2,000-4,000 pedestrians can roam freely.

“We’ll just use this as a learning experience and maybe everyone will be a little more careful,” said Francis.

He said the spike in First Friday attendance has created more of a “party atmosphere” and, subsequently, alcohol use has risen. He said the city council has expressed concerns about the “free flow” of spirits and some businesses have decided to quit offering wine samples altogether. Francis said the city does not have an ordinance that prohibits people from bringing their own liquor to the public gathering — but the practice is strongly discouraged.

“This is an event that was created to showcase local artists and raise awareness about what kinds of businesses we have. It really wasn’t meant to be a street festival, although we want the community to have a good time,” said Thomson.

She and Francis expect the First Friday action to “calm down” a little in September as the tourist season fades. Both officials believe that an elimination of the electric stage and reduction in the volume of amplified music will create a more serene environment.

In recent months, they have observed more teenagers attempting to navigate their way through First Friday crowds with skateboards. Francis said that poses a safety hazard and adults who observe this practice should ask the skateboarder to stop for public safety.

He said some parents also need to be reminded that First Friday isn’t meant to be a baby-sitting service. Last week, he noted a white van picking up a load of children after the street had reopened.

“Leaving children unsupervised in a large crowd like that just isn’t a good idea,” he said.

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