Officials want to allow alcohol at events in Brainerd’s parks

If allowed, alcohol sales and consumption would be limited to permitted events in the parks.

People stand and walk by canopied booths along a walking path for the Arts in the Park event.
People attend Arts in the Park on Sunday, June 26, 2022, at Gregory Park in Brainerd. Arts in the Park is one event where organizers have expressed interest in allowing alcohol consumption.
Kelly Humphrey / Brainerd Dispatch

BRAINERD — Parks Board members want to allow alcohol consumption in Brainerd’s parks.

The issue came up last month , when members discussed events that might take place at the amphitheater in the new Mississippi Landing Trailhead Park and whether alcohol could be consumed at concerts and other activities.

City Engineer/Public Works Director Jessie Dehn presented a draft ordinance to the Parks Board during a meeting Tuesday, Jan. 24, outlining potential guidelines for the measure. Right now, alcohol consumption is not allowed in city parks, with the exception of Memorial Park, where city code allows limited on-sale liquor licenses to be granted to professional baseball organizations and concession stand vendors.

The consumption of the non-intoxicating malt liquor allowed under that provision is limited to vending structures and seating areas on the premises and only during scheduled adult activities. Non-intoxicating malt liquor refers to beverages that contain less than 0.5% alcohol by volume, or typically what is referred to as 3.2% beer.

That language, however, is not usually followed, Mayor Dave Badeaux pointed out at Tuesday’s meeting, as players and spectators typically bring in their own beer for softball games.


“Beer and softball have gone together for many years,” Recreation Coordinator Katie Kaufmann said Tuesday, noting overconsumption happens at times but recalling only two incidents over the past nine years that were significant enough to involve law enforcement.

Dehn said this discussion could also serve as an opportunity to update city code to reflect exactly what Parks Board members want to see happening, particularly in Memorial Park.

The draft ordinance he proposed Tuesday would allow clubs or organizations to apply for temporary on-sale liquor licenses to sell alcohol in connection with an event in city parks. The license and event would both have to be approved by the City Council, and alcohol consumption would have to be contained in a building or fenced-in area. Organizations could also contract with groups that already have a liquor license for an event. The group putting on the event would also need liability insurance.

Gregory Park2
Gregory Park in north Brainerd. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch.

While Parks Board members generally agreed they would like to see an ordinance allowing alcohol sales, they questioned the necessity of containing the consumption to a specific area.

Board Chair Andrew Shipe said containing the consumption to a specific area sounds like it would be difficult, especially for an event like Arts in the Park, when attendees are walking around and visiting different booths.

“I don’t know if that advances our goals or just creates a friction point with the regulation,” Shipe said.

Other board members agreed.

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Shipe proposed trying the ordinance without that provision, knowing it could be added in if events go poorly and city officials feel like they need more control.


Board members also expressed interest in allowing the alcohol consumption in Memorial Park to continue, though Shipe asked if limiting the alcohol content of drinks was necessary.

“If we’re letting people drink beer, we’re trusting them to be responsible,” he said. “Does it matter if it’s 3.2 or 3.5% beer? That just seems like an odd distinction.”

Dehn said he would take the board members’ comments into account and consult with the city attorney on the legality of not limiting consumption to a confined space before bringing another proposal before the board.

Any ordinance approved by the Parks Board would simply be a recommendation and would have to go before the City Council for final approval.

THERESA BOURKE may be reached at or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at .

Theresa Bourke started working at the Dispatch in July 2018, covering Brainerd city government and area education, including Brainerd Public Schools and Central Lakes College.
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