On tap: Craft beer festival set for Palatka

Revitalize Historic Palatka plan to host event at Putnam County Courthouse

Palatka could be home to an inaugural craft beer festival thanks to Putnam County officials waiving the policy prohibiting the use and sale of alcohol on county property. 

The Board of County Commissioners during its meeting Tuesday voted unanimously to waive the policy during an event Revitalize Historic Palatka hopes to host Oct. 13. 

Waiving the policy was on the board’s consent agenda, which can be approved without discussion. But Commissioner Bill Pickens requested the item be pulled for discussion because he had questions about allowing alcohol at the Putnam County Courthouse parking lot. 

Because of the liability involved, Pickens said, he wondered “if there’s not another place to have this particular event.”

County Attorney Stacey Manning said he spoke with a risk management official and together came up with recommended limits for liability insurance. 

The location was the Revitalize Historic Palatka’s idea. The groups chairwoman, Robbi Correa, told commissioners having the craft beer festival would be a great way to attract more people to businesses in downtown Palatka. 

“So many things occur on the riverfront. We wanted something more central to drive people all the way downtown and to be aware of what businesses exist,” Correa said. “We’re here to promote Palatka more than anything else as an organization.”

Prior to Tuesday’s meeting, county staff recommended commissioners waive the alcohol policy 1–5 p.m. the day of the event. But the staff’s recommendation came with conditions, which includes:

* The applicant provides a general liability and liquor liability insurance policy with a minimum $1 million coverage limit and name the Board of County Commissioner as a certificate holder and additional insured.

* The applicant clean and remove all trash immediately after the event and repairs all damage done to the property during the event.

* The applicant obtain all permits and comply with all conditions the city of Palatka and state Department of Health requires. 

Correa said the group was in the process of securing insurance requirements and still has to fill out paperwork for the city. But Revitalize Historic Palatka will do what is necessary to make this event happen, she said. 

“We would follow all those requirements, and we certainly would be more than willing to report back on how this works,” Correa said. “And we hope to make this an annual event as well.”

Commissioner Chip Laibl said courthouse renovations about five years ago occurred so event like the proposed craft beer festival could happen in the parking lot. 

After the renovations were made, Laibl said, many big events occurred at the courthouse. But within the last one or two years, not as many events have been hosted there, he said. 

 “We revamped that parking lot. What we did was add water and electric all through it, so it’s set up at this point for these types of community events such as farmers markets and festivals of any types,” Laibl said. “I’m personally glad to see somebody start to put a lot of effort and resources into making it available for that type of activity.”

When the Blue Crab Festival began about 30 years ago, people questioned whether to allow alcohol to be sold and consumed at the courthouse, Putnam County Clerk of Courts Tim Smith said. 

But over the years, those concerns have waned, allowing the parking lot to be used for numerous big events. 

And with a craft beer location already downtown and one slated to open near the end of the year, there doesn’t seem to be much of a negative impact to the city and county if a craft beer festival was allowed at the courthouse parking lot, Smith said. 

“There was a lot of trepidation about making that happen,” Smith said about discussions when the Blue Crab Festival originated. “But with proper oversight and the rules in place, these (events) have now become common in these public areas.”