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Float-Rite given go-ahead for beer garden, liquor store

At a special meeting on Monday, the Somerset Village Board discussed a precedent-setting issue.

John Montpetit, owner of Float-Rite campground and concert site, submitted a proposal to have a beer garden and VIP area on the concert site and a year-round bar/liquor store at 520 Main Street.

He applied for these extra areas as extensions of his current liquor license, rather than as separate entities. At its May meeting, the Board asked Montpetit to detail his intentions for the various areas, and scheduled a public hearing, before proceeding.

The public hearing was set for 6 p.m. at the regular monthly meeting of the Planning Commission on June 9. There were no public comments made, so the Planning Commission continued with its regular meeting.

At 7 p.m., the Village Board held its special meeting. This time there were people there to express their feelings.

Craig Peterson, an attorney representing Mark and Mary Vanasse, told the Board that he did not believe the request was legitimate.

"It's either a bad idea or totally against the law," Peterson said.

He went on to cite that the detail maps were not given to the Board for review until that day, which did not give the public a chance to review them and make notes.

Another bone of contention was that the various sites were going to be operated under one organization. However, Peterson said that one of the applications was signed as "Float-Rite Inc." and another was signed as "John Montpetit, DBA as Float-Rite Inc."

"That's a big difference," Peterson said.

Moreover, Peterson said the Village is using a very old attorney general opinion as a reference.

"It's from 1948 and it dealt with a resort that had a road running through it," Peterson explained. "They said they could operate under one organization, but we are dealing with a campground, concert site and liquor store - very different.

"Going from a seasonal three-month concert site and campground to a year-round liquor store is quite a jump," Peterson concluded.

Another resident suggested a scenario based on the Board going through with this application.

"Since the highway came in, say Holiday gas station wanted to enter into a lease agreement with Sportsman's Bar to sell liquor," the resident theorized. "According to this, they would be able to use the existing license, even though they are physically far apart, right?"

Mark Vanasse, owner of Countryside Apartments next to Float-Rite, was also there to express his opinion.

"The Youth Hockey Association already has a liquor license there and we don't have a problem with that," Vanasse said. "but jumping crossroads to a rented facility - that doesn't apply to common sense."

After the public comment section was over, the Board approved the conditional use permit for 520 Main Street - the bar/liquor store site.

Jeff Johnson, Village president, explained why they were using the 1948 opinion as their basis.

"The applicant has control over the adjacent properties; these are satellite sites that are seasonal," Johnson said. "In my opinion, we are not creating an additional license, it was a 12-month license already."

The Board unanimously approved the request to amend the 2007-08 license premise for Float-Rite park to include 520 Main. They also approved the beer garden permit for the concert site on June 19-21.

"There will be two places," Montpetit explained, "a tent on the hill for the beer garden and a VIP place in front of the stage - just for the duration of the concert."

The beer garden is to be enclosed, with controlled access, no alcohol to be carried in or out. Johnson asked about the possibility of switching the hand stamp to a wristband.

"People can get creative with stamps and markers in the dark," Johnson said.

"We could do it, but I know if they go out, they can cut them off and put them on a minor," Montpetit said,"then it means absolutely nothing."

Montpetit also explained that even with a hand stamp, everyone would still get ID's checked.

The Board unanimously approved the beer garden and the "Class B" liquor license renewal for Float-Rite park.

The Village of Somerset's regular meetings are the third Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. at the Village Hall. The public is welcome to attend.