Greg Bassett: With Civic Center, Culver goes where others wouldn’t dare

For decades, advancing the idea of selling alcohol at the Wicomico Youth & Civic Center has been the “third rail” of local politics. Any elected leader who dared to raise the notion feared being electrocuted by a potential public backlash.

When Bob Culver first announced in January that he was moving on the issue, a lot of people sat back and waited for the sparks to fly.

That never happened.

As leaders before him had, the county executive vetted the issue with lawyers and other community leaders. He reached out to relatives of the long-departed civic leader who donated the land on which the Civic Center sits.

Then he began the process of winning the General Assembly’s approval, which happened in the legislative session that concluded in April.

Then on Tuesday night, without even a single person rising at a public hearing in dissent, the Wicomico Board of License Commissioners approved alcohol sales at the community’s sports and entertainment arena.

Alcohol had been allowed at the facility on a BYOB basis for years, but the sales restriction dated back to S. Franklyn Woodcock’s stipulation that no alcoholic beverages could be dispensed. Even though Woodcock donated the property for use as a ballfield at the time, somehow the restriction carried over through two incarnations of Civic Center buildings.

A year after taking office, said began vocalizing that — in today’s culture — major entertainers and sports teams refuse to contract where alcohol isn’t allowed, which causes the county a revenue source to make the Civic Center truly profitable.

From the beginning — and perhaps respecting the “third rail” — Culver has maintained that alcohol shouldn’t be sold at events geared toward children. He has also advocated a no-alcohol area in the stands for those who don’t want to drink or be around those who do.

At Tuesday night’s alcohol board meeting, Civic Center Manager Chuck Rousseau said his employees will receive extensive training before any alcohol sales commence. Staff will watch building entrances and exits to ensure facility control. Alcohol sales wouldn’t begin until at least September.

Getting all this accomplished in six short months — especially after years and years of hand-wringing — has really been amazing to watch.



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