Reversing course: Steamboat opts to restrict alcohol in parks with playgrounds |

Reversing course: Steamboat opts to restrict alcohol in parks with playgrounds


Elijah Howard couldn't hide his smile while playing on the swings at Little Toots Park in downtown Steamboat Springs.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today archives

After approving a first reading in a 6-1 vote last week, all but two Steamboat Springs City Council members voted Tuesday to change course on allowing alcohol in parks.

Council members voted Tuesday to technically not allow alcohol in any parks in city limits but agreed to amend the ordinance Dec. 7 to vote back in a list of parks that do not have playgrounds. Alcohol will then be permitted in parks without playgrounds but banned in parks with playgrounds.

“I rarely have people reach out to me, but this past week, I’ve had more moms, and I will specifically say they are moms, reach out to me and say, ‘Please don’t do this; please don’t put alcohol into parks, specifically playgrounds,’” said council member Heather Sloop. “I don’t think this is really what we want the character of our community to look like.”

Council members Joella West and Robin Crossan voted against the ordinance, indicating they wanted to keep the original vote to allow alcohol in all parks, regardless of whether the park has a playground.

“I think this was too much of a change in 10 minutes, and it has not been well thought through, and I would prefer more time,” said council member Robin Crossan. “If mom, dad and three kids go to a park on a Sunday afternoon, and dad wants to pop out a beer, and he’s being responsible with his family, we’re telling him he can’t do that.”

The Colorado Legislature also voted to allow restaurants to serve takeout alcohol until July 2025, though it did not extend the provision allowing consumption of alcohol in right of ways, meaning the city’s exception allowing open container consumption around Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street has expired.

Assistant City Attorney Jennifer Bock originally brought the ordinance to council last week because restaurants were looking for more flexibility in how their customers can consume alcohol.

“This winter is still going to be a major challenge for our businesses, and really, that’s because of the lack of workforce available,” said Steamboat Springs Chamber Executive Director Kara Stoller. “Enabling businesses to have additional sales if they can’t seat these patrons because they don’t have enough staff or if it’s a path in which they can provide better customer experience while people are waiting — it’s helpful.”

Steamboat Parks and Recreation Director Angela Cosby also said the ordinance would be useful because members of the public have expressed confusion about which parks allow alcohol and which do not, so either allowing or banning it in all parks would provide consistency.

Still, the council members who supported the ordinance said they believed it would not be difficult to differentiate between parks with playgrounds and parks without.

“After the comments I made last week, it definitely sat with me over the weekend, and it just touched a nerve,” said council member Eddie Briones. “No alcohol with playgrounds because they are sacred, and I don’t think kids should be exposed to that that early.”

Howelsen Park has always allowed alcohol, and Crossan said she was concerned about the ordinance not allowing alcohol in parks with playgrounds would change things at Howelsen because it has a playground.

“There’s a playground next to the volleyball courts, which means there will be no alcohol on Howelsen at the ballfields, at the soccer fields for adult play or any play,” Crossan said. “I have a real problem with this.”

Bock said the city could write the ordinance in such a way that allows alcohol at Howelsen, but council member Michael Buccino wanted to ensure that alcohol would not be allowed in skate parks, which Howelsen has.

“I would hate to see alcohol allowed at Bear River Park, where there’s a skate park, and Howelsen Hill also has a skate park,” Buccino said. “If you’re talking about alcohol awareness and bringing this to some people that may bring their beer to Bear River Park, we need to figure out what constitutes a playground.”

Howelsen has historically allowed alcohol because the ski area sells beer and adult sports at the park often involve drinking, and Bock said council could figure out a way to exempt Howelsen for those purposes but restrict alcohol to only certain parts of the complex.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Steamboat and Routt County make the Steamboat Pilot & Today’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.