July 19, 2011 at 1:00pm By: Mr. Wilson Posted in The Lincolnite Blog

Allowing a tax-subsidized department to compete with private businesses that pay property tax would be completely unfair.
Monte Froelich

Mr. Froelich, Councilman Jon Camp, and many others oppose a proposal to permit alcohol sales at Auld Pavilion and Pioneers Park Nature Center because they say that doing so would take away a competitive advantage currently held by private reception halls. And they’re right. It would improve the competitiveness of the two City properties. I doubt it would be hugely damaging to local private halls, but there would be effects.

I’m confused about where the line is that separates fair and unfair competition between public and private facilities. Is it the alcohol alone that makes the situation unfair, as Mr. Froelich implies? Surely having publicly owned gathering spaces at all is unfair competition to private entities with similar spaces. The same can be said of public golf courses, public recreation centers, and even public pools. Mr. Froelich is fired up about the reception hall issue because it directly affects him, which is fine. But I have to wonder if he likewise would close the F Street Rec Center, and if not, why not?

I suspect a lot of Lincolnites have already made up their minds about this, but let’s not be too hasty. There’s a lot of room for discussion and evaluation of principles here. If you think booze at Auld is fine, just how much public competition with private business are you willing to have? And if the booze isn’t ok (on competition grounds), where do you draw the line with other types of public encroachment into private services?

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Ryan July 19, 2011 at 1:46pm

It’s amazing how everyone expects the city to provide facilities when there’s no way they could be profitable, but as soon as the city looks into making something remotely self-sustainable, business owners throw out the “unfair competition” card.  City golf courses now sell alcohol, but I didn’t see HiMark, Hidden Valley, or any other golf courses go under because of it.  I’m pretty sure a new clubhouse at Holmes won’t put anyone out of business either.

Personally, I think it’s important for the city to have good quality facilities, and I’m all for them finding ways to make them self-sustainable. Alcohol tends to be good at that.

Fletch July 19, 2011 at 1:56pm

I don’t see a problem with introducing competition if it’s on an even playing field. Would these people be just as pissed if some other private enterprise came in and build a hall for rentals? No. It’s just another competitor.

Now, if the city got into the rental hall business by allowing alcohol and free rental space, that would not be fair to people that are charging for it. That would be an uneven playing field. If they are charging comparable rates, I say tough luck.

Using Ryan’s example above, it would be unfair to HiMark or Hidden Valley if the city built city-owned golf courses and let you play for free.

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