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Arlington mulls allowing alcohol at Long Bridge Park and Penrose Square events

An outdoor concert in Long Bridge Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Events at Long Bridge Park and Penrose Square could get boozier.

Arlington County is considering amending ordinances to allow the sale of alcoholic beverages during special events at these two public parks located, respectively, near Crystal City and on Columbia Pike.

Currently, county code allows alcohol at approved special events at Fort C. F. Smith Park in the Woodmont neighborhood, Clarendon Central Park and Gateway Park in Rosslyn. But amid support from some residents and the National Landing Business Improvement District to expand approved locations, the county is conducting a public outreach effort.

Locals can share if they think allowing drinking during special events at these parks is “a great idea, a bad idea or something in the middle.” The survey, originally set to close last week, is now open through Sunday, Nov. 6.

“Both of these sites were designed to be event venues and currently host a variety of events where alcohol would be a complement, including concerts, movie nights and festivals. In fact, both locations have closed off streets or easements nearby for their events to include alcohol,” says county staff member Adam Segel-Moss, in a video (below)explaining the proposed policy change.

The survey — which has been advertised online and on at least one sandwich board sign on Columbia Pike — asks respondents if there are any other locations staff should consider in the future. People can also share their experiences at special events they have attended at the three parks where alcohol sales are allowed.

“The county is going to take this change slowly, and in stages,” Segel-Moss said. “To be clear, we are not proposing alcohol in all parks every day at any time.”

If the change were to go through, special events organizers would have to request a permit to serve alcohol. Police review is required for special event permits requesting to serve alcohol, and the county can choose to require a police presence at the event, per the video.

The National Landing BID expressed its enthusiastic support for the change in a recent email promoting the survey.

“Having the ability to serve beer and wine during County-approved special events at Long Bridge Park (just like Gateway Park does currently in Rosslyn) is critical to our success in bringing diverse entertainment options to our district,” the BID said.

This ability would help the BID “bring world-class programming and major events to Long Bridge Park, including a signature event for the National Cherry Blossom Festival,” the email said.

A few years ago, Arlington asked locals what they thought of alcohol sales in public spaces, in general, when the county was updating its Public Spaces Master Plan.

“Nearly 60% of survey respondents indicated that they would be supportive of the sale of food and beverages, at least on a temporary basis, in parks and public spaces,” according to the plan. “This rises to over 60% when asked about the sale of food and beverages in the County’s high-density corridors or certain designated parks and plazas.”

Given the support, the updated parks plan recommends the allowing alcohol sales at more parks.

This change to county code could go to the Arlington County Board for review in January, Segel-Moss said.

Survey respondents on allowing concessions in Arlington parks (via Arlington County)

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