The ethics of alcohol and money

Published July 1, 2016 by justicewg

red beer cups

(Addition on Saturday July 16 – the city council will be voting Monday July 18 on the resolution to allow beer sales at the Ox Roast. If you have an opinion, this is the time to send it to the council members. An additional section has been added to the end of this post with responses from the chair of the Rec committee Panzera, and President Greta Kearns.)

(After the vote) Council unanimously voted to allow beer sales during the Ox Roast. Sales and consumption will be limited to a specific area, and only after 5PM.

I read in the TVN that the Grandview Heights Bobcat Boosters are trying to get permission from the city to sell alcohol at the Ox Roast. There has never been beer sales in the past, and although there is small stakes poker being played in a tent to raise money, this marks a major new step in flirting with vices for the school group.

I can’t predict how this request will be treated by the city council – if we go by the recent addition of beer sales to the Hop event on Grandview Ave, and sales at the bike race, I’m guessing it passes. Still, this is for the most part a school event, and the ethics of “what will the kids think” might give some council member pause. There are some questions that should be answered before the city adds to the list of alcohol sales events.

Where did this come from?

The Bobcat Boosters have been around for a long time, not sure but decades at least. In all that time, it must have come up in discussion before to add alcohol sales, it’s an obvious, sure fire money maker. Something changed that made it acceptable for beer sales to now be proposed to the city.

What changed? Was it seeing other groups like the Hop start selling, and that made the Boosters feel like they were missing out? St. Christopher parish festival has been selling beer for many years, why didn’t that event cause the Boosters to ask for permission?

Has there been a shift in public perception for alcohol sales? Is it now OK to bring beer into an event that has to be seen as more of a school related event than any other festival or celebration in the city?

The root of all beer

The story in the TVN said “the Boosters netted about $11,000 from the Ox Roast, which “isn’t as much as we would like” given the number of man-hours that Boosters and other volunteers put in to set up and operate the festival”. Is there an expectation for the amount of money that volunteers should be able to raise, and if less that that expectation is raised, is the event to be judged a failure? Are volunteers wasting their time if they don’t raise a certain number of dollars?

Booster pres Jump is quoted saying “We think we might be able to double our proceeds if we had beer sales.” Is the amount of money that alcohol might add a vital part of the ethics of the question? What if the beer sales only added 10% to the profits from the roast, would that change the perception of the change in policy? Will the Boosters keep track of the money made from the beer sales, and do they have any proposal to stop the sales if they don’t make enough money? What would that number be?

Think of the kiddley divey doos

There is no getting around it – a community that tells its children that alcohol is dangerous, but then brings it into a school event, is hypocritical. We spend most of our lives being hypocritical in front of our kids, like when we break the speeding laws while lecturing teenagers about their use of cars. We ask kids to be careful with their money, while we rack up the credit card debt for a fun lifestyle. We are all hypocrites, to some degree. The question is, what degree do you feel that selling beer at a school event rates?

One of the best answers to this question of how we can justify bringing alcohol around the kids is the standard “we are teaching them how to have a good relationship with alcohol”. There will probably be very few sloppy drunks at the Ox roast, so this can be a valid argument.

Here is a counter argument – we know that beer sales could make a lot of money for the boosters, but because we think it is a poor precedent, we will decide to forgo that money for the sake of teaching the kids that alcohol should not be used at school events. We don’t make the sales, because we want to teach that money is not the most important thing.

Which one of the preceding two arguments would teach the best lesson to the kids?

Where does that slope lead?

If the boosters bring alcohol to the Ox roast, it sets a precedent . What school event will be next? Will we hear the chant of “beer here!” in the stands at football games? What would the reasoning be for saying that alcohol shouldn’t be allowed at school sports events, when the Ox Roast is allowed? After all, the money raised by selling beer in the stands will help the school. If you are against it, are you against helping the kids?

How about wine sales at school plays and musicals? As long as a strict limit is enforced, wouldn’t that help teach the kids to have a good relationship with alcohol? And think of the money!

The school buildings sit idle most evenings. Think of the potential money raised by booking bands, and installing bars. Sure, you might have to throw some left over drunks out the next morning, but think of the profits!

Sorry. That last one was a little over the top. Might be the scotch speaking. Here is a quote from 1577 – It sloweth age, it strengtheneth youth, it helpeth digestion, it cutteth flegme, it relisheth the harte, it lighteneth the mynd, it quickeneth the spirits, it cureth the hydropsie, it repelleth gravel . . . and trulie it is a sovereigne liquor if it be orderlie taken”.

And it makes money, too.


I was a little silly in my examples above, the school wouldn’t allow sales of alcohol on its property. I guess. For an example of a possible slip down the slope, suppose if the Boosters added another event like the mulch sale – only this would be a “fine wine” event, held in cooperation with a wine store. Adult booster members would go door to door, asking residents to buy wines, and some of the profits would go to the school. I think this would be legal, and it would be profitable – as long as the group is OK with being associated with alcohol sales.


Chaffin and Culp cardsOff topic, but this twitter post raised some questions, and maybe fits because of the ethical issues. Gambling with cards is another vice we don’t want to promote in front of the kids, is this photo an example of “teaching how to have a good relationship with a potential vice”? Is a card tournament the best use of our tax dollars (I can only guess from the background that this was done at the school, in the daytime). And does anyone think there might be a reason the bosses are allowed to be the winners in a card tournament?


beer cans and bottles

Via Rich Anderson CC Flickr


Beer oversupply

There were a couple of news stories this weekend that involved beer and how people might have drunk a little too much of it. Not much linkage between these stories and the decision the city council is making about allowing the Boosters to sell beer at the Ox Roast, but they pushed me in to making up my mind on the issue.


Ya drink 48 tons, and what to ya get?

Pittsburgh fans of Kenny Chesney had their annual party and concert over the weekend, along with dozens of arrests, and hospitalizations for over-intoxication. They set a new record for the quantity of trash left in the parking lots around the event. From the photos I have seen, most of that was beer containers. Observers called it a carpet of trash, leaving a “reeking, hulking mass of garbage”. Trash crews said that 48 tons was removed from the area.

Red, White, and Blue eyes

A Fireworks display at a Michigan beach turned into a massive fight, with members of the drunk crowd throwing bottles and punching police in the face. Apparently what started the disturbance was the police enforcing a no beer rule for the public beach, a new policy caused by problems in past years. Some of the people trying to bring coolers of beer on to the beach objected, and a free-for-all fight ensued. At least 30 people were arrested. Panicked people already on the beach were reported to be trampling others as the crown moved away from the fight. The beach was closed down and the state patrol was brought in to restore order.

Hold my beer, solve my problems

There is a negative externality to drinking alcohol that never seems to get addressed. Those people in Pittsburgh didn’t care if they made a mess, their attitude is “let someone else clean up”. The drunks in Michigan knew they would be ruining the fireworks for a lot of people, but just didn’t care.

I have not read any plans from the people who want to sell beer at the Ox Roast to mitigate any problems that drunks might cause. I don’t expect to read any either, because that’s always left for someone else to solve.

Status of the beer ordinance as of Saturday, July 16

I asked Recreation, Service and Public Facilities Committee chair Panzera, and council president Kearns about the status of the vote to allow beer sales, and what their personal opinion is on the matter.

The Boosters asked Council to permit limited beer sales at the Ox Roast on Friday and Saturday evenings (not Thursday).  A resolution was then proposed to suspend the open container laws accordingly. The Recreation, Services and Facilities committee was to further review the resolution in a meeting yesterday.  I am out of town and didn’t attend that meeting. I assume the resolution will be in form for a vote at our Monday meeting.
Council has suspended the open container laws in defined times and locations for a variety of street fair type events in the city.  My chief considerations as a policymaker in this particular context are public safety and minimizing the potential for minor consumption.  The evidence I heard at the last meeting and in discussion with the Boosters suggests they are taking reasonable steps to define parameters around time and location of sale and consumption (only in a defined area which does not encompass the playground or carnival area) and providing for enhanced security and administrative controls around sale, consumption and ingress/egress.  I also understand they are pursuing a permit application with the state that may further define these issues.
If you are asking how I will vote, I haven’t decided and haven’t yet seen the final resolution or all the evidence.
Greta Kearns
Council President

This is the first I have read that the beer consumption will be confined to a specific area, and not be allowed in the entire park. If the beer drinking is in an enclosed tent, like the poker games, it may change the opinions of some.

I’m well aware that not everyone will agree…

At present, my personal opinion on this matter is that I don’t oppose it. That said, a good deal of thought, discussion, and feedback has influenced my opinion, and I realize that it does come with some contention among some members of our community.  When initially introduced, it was a more loosely arranged idea by the Boosters, and they sought the feedback of Council. Council members expressed varying levels of thought, some from a simple and immediately supportive view, and some from a basis of a wide variety of concerns.  There have been several public discussions, and the Boosters have modified their plan based on feedback.  Although there are a few voices of opposition that have been heard in the community, to my knowledge, none have come before Council to express any type of organized opposition.  The Booster organization has responded to Council’s concerns and at present I believe they are entitled to their request, provided they follow state law and rules set fourth by the city.

Council did state an interest during a public meeting that the Boosters seek some opinion from the School Board, but it was not outlined as an absolute requirement to approve beer sales.  While I don’t expect to see a formal measure of support from the Board, seeing no measure of opposition whatsoever from the Board clearly indicates to me that there are no objections.

All-in-all, I believe that the Boosters are seeking this permission with a near-unanimous vote from their members, and I can’t see turning it down if that’s really what they want.  In the end, it’s their event, not the City’s. Any public discourse or dissatisfaction will be for them to answer, and they will ultimately find that out through revenue and attendance, which I hope will be outstanding.

I don’t have nearly enough voiced opposition to feel compelled to prevent them from conducting beer sales at their event as they have requested. There are traditions to the Ox Roast, but I don’t ever recall one of those is for the City to deliberately prohibit beer sales.  The Boosters organization puts thousands of volunteer hours into our community every year, and, as dedicated and loyal members of our community, if they see this as an acceptable means of providing more support to their cause, who am I to stop that?  More, I simply believe that it represents a confidence in their organization that they can handle the responsibility, and want to seek new ways to make the Ox Roast more successful.

I don’t believe it will trigger any broad negativity about the Ox Roast as a beloved community event, and I know that the Boosters will take every measure to ensure that it is done properly and with care.


Interesting to hear that the school board members have not expressed an opinion to the city council on beer sales at the Ox Roast. Although the board doesn’t run the festival, they are so closely associated with it that their lack of input is strange.

If you are in opposition to the beer sales, please send an email to the board, and ask them why they don’t make their opinions known. At the present, their silence is being interpreted by the council as approval of beer sales (and if you can get the normally tight-lipped board to answer an email, please share it with me).


6 comments on “The ethics of alcohol and money

  • I do not know where you get the idea the Ox Roast is a school event. It is not. It is a community event put on by the Bobcat Boosters to benefit the youth of Grandview Heights and Marble Cliff. They have also donated money to the city for park improvements which benefit all people who use our parks.

    • Let’s see – where could I have gotten the idea that the Bobcat Boosters is a school group holding a school event called the Ox Roast? The event starts with the school band marching down to the park for the lighting of the fire, done with members of the school football team.* The park is filled with rides for school aged kids, and booths that have games for school aged kids (and most of those booths are run by teenagers). Most of the money from the event goes to the schools, or school scholarships, I never knew of money going to anyone else. The park is technically owned by the city, but 95% of the use of the park is by the school across the road, and by school age kids in the evenings. Oh yea, and the name of the group holding the event, Bobcat Boosters, is the same as the school mascot.

      Mr. Berlin can’t understand why I or anyone else would think the Ox Roast is a school event? Really?

      *The roasting of the Ox starts with the fire, Mr Berlin reminded me that the festival begins before on Thursday. True, but irrelevant to the question of how allowing beer into the fest will change it.

  • A note from the editor – the issue of beer sales at the Ox Roast has incited anger from people on both sides of the issue. I have deleted comments from those both pro and anti. Ad-hominem and irrelevant comments will not be allowed.

    • I don’t often make a new post when there are updates to a story, you have to look at the top of the post for updates. Second para:

      Council unanimously voted to allow beer sales during the Ox Roast. Sales and consumption will be limited to a specific area, and only after 5PM.

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