February 24, 2013

Alcohol sales revisited for Essex County Fair

WESTPORT — The idea of starting alcohol sales at the Essex County Fair has returned — but not for this year.

Supervisor Daniel Connell (D-Westport), the County Board of Supervisors liaison to the Fair Board, said he has done additional research on the idea and believes it may be feasible for the 2014 fair.

The board turned down a request last year to have a beer tent as a fundraiser for the Essex County Agricultural Society, the organization that runs the annual fair.

Connell said the concept he proposes would be more akin to a craft-brew and wine-tasting event, with local wineries and microbreweries participating.

“Most fairs are selling alcohol in a controlled environment, and it is a huge part of their revenue,” he said at a recent County Public Works Committee session. 

“They (other fairs) recommend local breweries and wineries at a fair.”


Connell attended the New York State Association of Fairs annual meeting in Rochester recently, where he spoke with representatives of other county fairs.

He noted the Franklin County Fair is bringing in country singer-songwriter Vince Gill as part of its entertainment offerings this year.

“I went to one of their people and said that there was no way they made enough money to afford bringing him in, and they said they will make $6,000 in beer sales alone on the one night that Vince Gill is there. 

“The last time they had a really big show there, they did $10,000 in (alcohol) sales in a three-hour period.”

The Franklin County Fair is a larger event, but Connell said he thinks they’d make at least $6,000 from alcohol sales at the Essex County Fair.

“I don’t know how long the fair can survive if they don’t make changes.”


He said the county didn’t get accurate information on the impact of alcohol sales when the issue came up before.

“We’d have no more alcohol arrests than normal,” Connell said he was told at the Rochester conference. “(Essex County) is totally out of step with where everyone else in New York state is going.”

Paid attendance at the fair is running between 8,000 and 10,000 each year.

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