Groton wants to put a lid on drinking at town events

Groton - Police will enforce a town ordinance this summer that prohibits drinking at town-sponsored events such as concerts at Esker Point Beach and may issue $100 tickets if necessary, according to Groton Town Police Chief Michael Crowley.

Last year, police focused on educating people about the ordinance that dates back to 1969 and also forbids drinking alcohol in public.

Crowley said he hopes residents will voluntarily comply, but if they don't, officers may issue tickets, he said.

"I'm not having people go around checking everybody's cups," Crowley said. "But we're certainly dealing with the open, flagrant beer bottles and wine bottles."

The Summer SoundWaves Concert Series begins June 20 and runs from 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursdays at Esker Point Beach.

Crowley said he's watched the concerts change in recent years, from family-oriented events where children play and couples share a bottle of wine, to events where young people try to carry 30-packs of beer across the street.

Groton police assigned three officers to the concerts several years ago, but have since increased that to five. Two bike officers also patrol the area.

The concerts typically attract at least 2,000 people, Crowley said.

Officers made no arrests last year but spoke to eight to 12 people per concert, explained the rules and sometimes asked them to return alcohol to their cars, Crowley said. Signs were also posted at Fitch High School and notices distributed to people parking their cars before the performances.

Officers have made a handful of arrests during the last several years for minor violations during the concerts, Crowley said.

Town Councilor Bruce Flax, who has attended the concerts for years with his family, said he has not seen a problem at the events so he doesn't know why there's an issue.

He said there's been a "wink, wink" policy about drinking.

"To me, you're either in compliance or you're breaking the ordinance," he said. He said police could stop drinking at the concerts entirely if they issued 50 tickets for three straight Thursdays.

But Flax said he supports the police approach.

Lisa Greenspan of Groton, who relaxed at Esker Point Beach on Thursday, said it's too bad that enforcement is necessary.

"It's sad that we're getting our privileges taken away. It really feels like that," she said. "You can't just come to the beach and have a beer. It's sad that other people have made it get to the point that police (would) issue tickets. But at the same time, people bring their kids here. You can't have a drunk person running around."

Crowley said he still hopes for voluntary compliance.

"We're not trying to ruin anybody's good night," he said.

d.straszheim@theday.com

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