The Ottawa County Fair gets beer this year.
Ottawa County Senior Fair Board President Beth Lepper received word last week the fair's four-day liquor permit was approved by the state. Ottawa County is only the fifth county to allow alcohol sales at its fair, joining Cuyahoga, Auglaize, Delaware and Lucas counties.
"We're hoping to make some money, but we also would like to give people the opportunity to have an alcoholic beverage," Lepper said.
The fair starts Monday and runs through July 22, but the permit limits alcohol sales to Wednesday through July 21. The permit restricts sales to beer and wine coolers.
Ottawa County Commissioners approved the liquor application by a vote of 2-1 in March and anticipate alcohol sales will help the fair bring in about $10,000.
"We'll try it this year and see how it works," said County Commissioner Jim Sass, who approved the fair's application. "Hopefully, it can generate some revenue for improvements at the fair."
The fair board has taken some precautions to restrict access to alcohol. Alcohol is available for purchase within an enclosed area near the grandstand and is allowed only in the grandstand and track areas. Fair goers are limited to two alcoholic beverages per person. Wrist bands will also be distributed to prevent underage drinking.
Two groups of volunteers will be serving alcohol. They were trained by a state liquor agent.
"I believe the fair board has put in restrictions to control the sale and the amount of sales to the individuals," said County Commissioner President Carl Koebel, who approved the fair's application. "I know they're going to do everything humanly possible to make this work to their benefit and keep any problems from occurring."
Lepper said the fair will also have additional deputies from the Ottawa County Sheriff's office to handle any unforeseen problems.
County Commissioner Steve Arndt voted against approving the fair's liquor application because of potential liability issues.
"There's a time and a place for alcohol," Arndt said. "I don't believe the amount of money generated justifies the liability it could produce for the county."
"I'm hoping we don't have any problems, but if we do, we're not beyond saying we won't shut it down and the fair board's aware of that," Koebel said.
In case something should happen, the fair board has purchased additional insurance coverage.
"It's our first year. We're hoping for the best," Lepper said. "You don't know how something's going to work until you try it."