Barrington begins allowing liquor sales on public property

Town manager authorizes sale and consumption of alcohol at park, Town Hall and library complex

By Josh Bickford
Posted 7/23/21

Picture this: The rear entrance to Barrington Town Hall has been transformed into a beer garden. Servers from local breweries pour cups of beer while customers line up near the electric car charging …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Register to post events

If you'd like to post an event to our calendar, you can create a free account by clicking here.

Note that free accounts do not have access to our subscriber-only content.

Day pass subscribers

Are you a day pass subscriber who needs to log in? Click here to continue.

Barrington begins allowing liquor sales on public property

Town manager authorizes sale and consumption of alcohol at park, Town Hall and library complex


Picture this: The rear entrance to Barrington Town Hall has been transformed into a beer garden. Servers from local breweries pour cups of beer while customers line up near the electric car charging stations, just outside of the council chambers.

A wine vendor sets up shop on the steps of Barrington Public Library, and a catering cocktail bar is stationed in the field near library cove, a short walk from the Barrington Senior Center. The parking lot nearby has been transformed into a food truck court.

The beverage and food options had been part of the plan for a three-day film festival, which will be held at the town hall campus Aug. 6 to 8. The event will mark one of the first times ever where the sale, possession and consumption of alcohol on town property will be allowed, and in some cases wholeheartedly endorsed.

A reoccurring community block party that kicked off last Friday at Police Cove Park is also planning to have a beer garden and cocktail service.

Ordinance 2019-23, an amendment to the law prohibiting possession and consumption of alcohol on public property, gives the town manager the power to approve exceptions.

Barrington Town Manager Jim Cunha said the amendment stems from a situation that surfaced more than a year ago. He said members of a Barrington High School reunion class were planning to hold a reception at the town hall and wanted to serve beer and wine. The prior council approved the amendment.

Barrington Town Council member Jacob Brier said the change was made with an eye toward other future events.

“My recollection is that the BHS reunion was the impetus for Jim to request the ordinance amendment, because it made clear that such a thing was prohibited, but probably no longer needed to be, as it likely predated any liquor sales in Barrington,” Mr. Brier said. “When we discussed it, I didn't have the expectation it would only be used in that one specific circumstance. I think we even discussed the possibility of larger events at parks or the beach.”

While Ordinance 2019-23 was passed more than a year ago, the upcoming film festival, which is being planned in part by Lisa Lowenstein, and the community block parties, planned by Mariana Silva-Buck, are the first events to benefit from it. Prior to Ordinance 2019-23, no one was allowed to drink a beer or enjoy a class of wine on public property. Consumption and possession of alcohol was obviously permitted at events on private property, including at churches and private clubs, as long as they had the required liquor license.

Neighboring towns have allowed alcohol on public property for years. In Warren, the rotary club holds the annual Quahog Festival at Burr’s Hill Park, which is public property. Wine and beer are available at the event.

Barrington is requiring organizers of the film festival and community block parties to obtain a liquor license. Initially, he town council agenda for Monday night’s meeting included applications for two Class F licenses — one for Smug Brewing and the other for 12 Guns Brewery — for the film festival. But prior to the meeting, the applications were withdrawn and organizers of the festival told town officials that they would obtain a Class P license. A Class P liquor license is for caterers.

Mr. Cunha said he has been working with organizers for both events, adding that he believes the film festival and block parties will be great community events. He said that the town is not sponsoring either event.

“I think it’s great,” he said. “It’s great for the community. I think it’s great for our businesses.”

During an interview last week, Mr. Cunha said organizers for both events still needed to complete some additional paperwork before the beer gardens were allowed. (Mr. Cunha said noise amplification permits for live music or DJs can be approved administratively by his office.) He said he is trying to assist the organizers as much as possible.

“I didn’t want to poo poo” the events, he said. Mr. Cunha added that there is a learning curve to planning these types of events.

The town manager said he fully intends to make sure both events are closely following the town’s rules. He said officials do not anticipate there will be any problems with excessive alcohol consumption.

Ms. Silva-Buck agreed.

“It’s not like people are gathering to have a frat party or a boys night out,” she said, adding that she can work with the vendors to set drink limits if necessary.

Mr. Cunha said there are many towns that hold these types of events, but Barrington is new to it. He said police and fire department officials have signed off on the events.

Barrington Town Council member Rob Humm said he does not have any concerns about the use of Ordinance 2019-23 with the film festival and community block parties … “so long as the events are safe, responsibly organized, and compliant with all applicable laws and regulations. In my experience, our town manager always has the best interests of the town and its residents in mind when making decisions. I trust him to do the same with respect to this ordinance, like with any other ordinance.”

Mr. Brier said he is comfortable with the process and the amount of oversight.

“… the Council maintains the responsibility of determining who can have a license to sell alcohol -- this just relates to possession and consumption. I think it should be within a town manager's range of ability to balance public safety with the public benefit when such a question arises, and I believe that's the case with our town manager,” he said.

Mr. Brier said he is excited to welcome the community block parties and the upcoming film festival.

“We've all been cooped up for months and we have the great benefit of two new, creative and fun town-wide events to bring people together. I'm really excited about them! It's fairly common for events like these to serve alcohol in most places -- it's just new here. I think that's okay,” Mr. Brier said.

In an email sent late last week, Barrington Town Clerk Merrie DeSisto wrote that neither the film festival nor the block party had an approved application on file in the clerk’s office. Barrington Recreation Department Director Michele Geremia said Ms. Silva-Buck had filed a land use permit application for the community block party at Police Cove Park, but Ms. Lowenstein had not yet filed an application for the Aug. 6-8 film festival. Ms. Geremia said film festival planners had submitted some paperwork, but not a proper application.


The town solicitor’s memo to the town manager and clerk includes a list of requirements and considerations for the events because of the sale of alcohol:

• Proof of TIPS training or equivalent certification for all servers

• Proof of insurance, including liquor liability insurance for each entity serving alcohol

• Both the entity hosting the event and the entities serving alcohol should indemnify the town and hold the town harmless “from any harm resulting from the event or from liquor service”

• A copy of the Class P license (for caterers) and Class F license (for all others) should be provided

• BAY Team training and certification should be required

2024 by East Bay Media Group

Barrington · Bristol · East Providence · Little Compton · Portsmouth · Tiverton · Warren · Westport
Meet our staff
Jim McGaw

A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.