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Carbondale art galleries face new permitting requirement

Jeremy Heiman
Glenwood Springs, Colorado, CO
Beer and wine are expected at gallery openings, but enforcement of state law might make it more difficult for businesses and organizations to serve alcohol. (Trina Ortega photo)
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CARBONDALE, Colorado ” Art galleries customarily serve wine or champagne during artist receptions and art show openings. It’s a time-honored tradition, and Carbondale galleries are certainly no exception .

Up until now, this practice has not been subject to regulation, even though it has been a little shady in the eyes of the law. But this year the Colorado Legislature threw a monkey wrench into that situation, and galleries statewide are now trying to get used to a new law imposed on them by the state.

Carbondale’s galleries synchronized their show openings a couple of years ago, so that the celebrations usually occur on the first Friday of each month, bringing art fans out in force to walk from opening to opening around town.



Mark Couch, a spokesman for the Colorado Liquor Enforcement Division, said it was a similar “First Fridays gallery crawl” in downtown Denver that prompted Denver police to request a gallery liquor law from the state legislature.

The new law, which went into effect July 1, specifies that if a gallery serves wine, beer or liquor to guests at artist receptions and show openings, it now must have a permit to do so, even though the beverages are complimentary. It also limits a gallery to only 15 days in each year when it can serve alcohol and limits the serving time to four hours per event.



Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker said it has been sort of a gray area in the law and in town ordinances.

“The state is just trying to make it legal,” Baker said. “In the past, it wasn’t clear, and perhaps it should have been done another way.”

He said once the permit is taken care of, the change shouldn’t be a burden. Most galleries won’t serve at more than 15 events per year.

“If you’ve got your planning together for the year, you can minimize the hassle,” Baker said.

In answer to a question raised by Carbondale Trustee Stacey Bernot at last week’s town council meeting, Baker said it’s not likely the town could be held liable if someone drank at an unpermitted art gallery event and subsequently was involved in an automobile accident. The town would not really have been negligent or have done anything wrong in such a case, he said.

A perceived problem

Town Clerk Cathy Derby noted that serving wine at gallery openings has gone unregulated for many years in Carbondale, without much thought. She was contacted by the state in May and informed of the law and her responsibility under it.

Laura Harris, director of the liquor enforcement division of the Colorado Department of Revenue, said a letter was sent to local liquor licensing clerks (county clerks, city clerks and town clerks) in all local jurisdictions in the state, informing them of the new state law. She said it is the responsibility of those clerks and the local police departments to inform gallery owners of the requirement.

The town of Carbondale processed its first application for a permit under the new law recently, and the trustees got a look at the application, filed by Franklin Norwood of Main Street Gallery and The Framer, at their Aug. 26 meeting.

Norwood said he’s complying, but reluctantly.

“I’ve been serving wine at openings for 26 years,” Norwood said. “I don’t think I’ve been contributing to the moral demise of the community, or anything.”

He said, although he had completed his application in ample time, and though the town council reviewed and approved the application last week, he will not receive his permit in time to serve wine during this week’s First Friday art walk. His Carbondale gallery is hosting a show of paintings by Glenwood Springs painter Mary Noone, and will celebrate the show opening Friday evening.

“We’re going to serve some kind of punch, or something,” Norwood said resignedly. “It’s easier to cave than to fight it anymore.”

Norwood said he’s never been aware of a problem with alcohol being served at galleries in Carbondale. When wine-wielding gallery-goers wander out of a gallery with a glass of wine, they are usually steered back inside by gallery staff, he said. The police are seldom involved beyond issuing verbal warnings about the town’s open container ordinance.

“The cops here have been great, and that’s why it makes it such a weird thing to have to get licensed,” Norwood said.

Nonprofits affected, too

Ro Mead, executive director of Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities, said Derby contacted her about the requirement. CCAH has a gallery at its offices on Main Street, and routinely hosts First Fridays openings, complete with complimentary wine and sometimes beer.

Mead said the new requirement isn’t a huge imposition, but more in the category of a minor hassle. CCAH hadn’t yet applied as of Tuesday.

“We deal with it, or we don’t serve wine,” she said. Mead said she enjoys getting ready for art show openings at her gallery.

“It was just like having a big party. I think it gives it more of a festive feel,” she said.

“But I hope people don’t come to the openings just to drink wine,” she added.

Norwood said it’s not likely he’d be busted for serving wine this Friday, but the penalties are too grave to risk it. He said he’d been told failure to comply could result in closure of the gallery and confiscation of all the contents.

The penalties are not all that clear, according to other sources. The state Liquor Enforcement Division’s Couch said there is nothing in the new state law itself that specifies penalties for a gallery that serves wine without a permit. He said a first violation would probably receive a warning, and on a second offense, the gallery could face a criminal charge for an alcohol violation.

Baker, who checked with Carbondale’s town attorney Mark Hamilton, agreed that the statute doesn’t have a violation clause, and said the town doesn’t have anything specific in its ordinances. But he surmised that the town would have the ability to enforce whatever state law applies. He said Police Chief Gene Schilling would probably have the power to shut down a nonconforming gallery.

Law has other restrictions

Some things that are made clear by the statute, known as HB 08-1105, are that galleries cannot sell alcoholic beverages, but only give them away; they cannot charge an entrance fee; they cannot allow more than 250 people into the gallery at one time; they cannot allow self-service of alcoholic beverages and they can buy up to $500 worth of alcoholic beverages at retail annually, and must purchase any additional amount from licensed wholesalers.

Baker said special training such as the TIPS program is not required for those serving wine or other beverages in galleries. TIPS training, provided by the American Beverage Institute, is intended to prevent such problems as drunken driving, over-serving of customers and serving of underage drinkers, and is required of those who serve at special events in Carbondale such as Mountain Fair’s beer tent.

The cost of applying for the permit is not insignificant. The local fee is $103.75, apparently to compensate local governments for the expense incurred in the permitting process, in policing the galleries and enforcing the law, and the state fee is $71.25.

Norwood, who owns another gallery in Glenwood Springs, rounded the cost up to $200 for each location.

“It’s 400 bucks for something I’ve always done,” he complained.

“The galleries are trying to weigh whether it’s worth it,” Derby said.

Shawn Tolle, manager of Roadside Gallery on Main Street, said he may not apply for a permit, because of “the cost, and it just seems like more bureaucracy.”

He said he had not been informed of the requirement through official channels, but Norwood had mentioned the permit law to him. Norwood, he said, had also told him of the penalties for serving alcohol without the new permit.

“With those kinds of restrictions involved,” Tolle said, “we’ll be serving pop and cheese.”

Town Clerk Cathy Derby noted that serving wine at gallery openings has gone unregulated for many years in Carbondale, without much thought. She was contacted by the state in May and informed of the law and her responsibility under it.

Laura Harris, director of the liquor enforcement division of the Colorado Department of Revenue, said a letter was sent to local liquor licensing clerks (county clerks, city clerks and town clerks) in all local jurisdictions in the state, informing them of the new state law. She said it is the responsibility of those clerks and the local police departments to inform gallery owners of the requirement.

The town of Carbondale processed its first application for a permit under the new law recently, and the trustees got a look at the application, filed by Franklin Norwood of Main Street Gallery and The Framer, at their Aug. 26 meeting.

Norwood said he’s complying, but reluctantly.

“I’ve been serving wine at openings for 26 years,” Norwood said. “I don’t think I’ve been contributing to the moral demise of the community, or anything.”

He said, although he had completed his application in ample time, and though the town council reviewed and approved the application last week, he will not receive his permit in time to serve wine during this week’s First Friday art walk. His Carbondale gallery is hosting a show of paintings by Glenwood Springs painter Mary Noone, and will celebrate the show opening Friday evening.

“We’re going to serve some kind of punch, or something,” Norwood said resignedly. “It’s easier to cave than to fight it anymore.”

Norwood said he’s never been aware of a problem with alcohol being served at galleries in Carbondale. When wine-wielding gallery-goers wander out of a gallery with a glass of wine, they are usually steered back inside by gallery staff, he said. The police are seldom involved beyond issuing verbal warnings about the town’s open container ordinance.

“The cops here have been great, and that’s why it makes it such a weird thing to have to get licensed,” Norwood said.

Ro Mead, executive director of Carbondale Council on Arts and Humanities, said Derby contacted her about the requirement. CCAH has a gallery at its offices on Main Street, and routinely hosts First Fridays openings, complete with complimentary wine and sometimes beer.

Mead said the new requirement isn’t a huge imposition, but more in the category of a minor hassle. CCAH hadn’t yet applied as of Tuesday.

“We deal with it, or we don’t serve wine,” she said. Mead said she enjoys getting ready for art show openings at her gallery.

“It was just like having a big party. I think it gives it more of a festive feel,” she said.

“But I hope people don’t come to the openings just to drink wine,” she added.

Norwood said it’s not likely he’d be busted for serving wine this Friday, but the penalties are too grave to risk it. He said he’d been told failure to comply could result in closure of the gallery and confiscation of all the contents.

The penalties are not all that clear, according to other sources. The state Liquor Enforcement Division’s Couch said there is nothing in the new state law itself that specifies penalties for a gallery that serves wine without a permit. He said a first violation would probably receive a warning, and on a second offense, the gallery could face a criminal charge for an alcohol violation.

Baker, who checked with Carbondale’s town attorney Mark Hamilton, agreed that the statute doesn’t have a violation clause, and said the town doesn’t have anything specific in its ordinances. But he surmised that the town would have the ability to enforce whatever state law applies. He said Police Chief Gene Schilling would probably have the power to shut down a nonconforming gallery.

Some things that are made clear by the statute, known as HB 08-1105, are that galleries cannot sell alcoholic beverages, but only give them away; they cannot charge an entrance fee; they cannot allow more than 250 people into the gallery at one time; they cannot allow self-service of alcoholic beverages and they can buy up to $500 worth of alcoholic beverages at retail annually, and must purchase any additional amount from licensed wholesalers.

Baker said special training such as the TIPS program is not required for those serving wine or other beverages in galleries. TIPS training, provided by the American Beverage Institute, is intended to prevent such problems as drunken driving, over-serving of customers and serving of underage drinkers, and is required of those who serve at special events in Carbondale such as Mountain Fair’s beer tent.

The cost of applying for the permit is not insignificant. The local fee is $103.75, apparently to compensate local governments for the expense incurred in the permitting process, in policing the galleries and enforcing the law, and the state fee is $71.25.

Norwood, who owns another gallery in Glenwood Springs, rounded the cost up to $200 for each location.

“It’s 400 bucks for something I’ve always done,” he complained.

“The galleries are trying to weigh whether it’s worth it,” Derby said.

Shawn Tolle, manager of Roadside Gallery on Main Street, said he may not apply for a permit, because of “the cost, and it just seems like more bureaucracy.”

He said he had not been informed of the requirement through official channels, but Norwood had mentioned the permit law to him. Norwood, he said, had also told him of the penalties for serving alcohol without the new permit.

“With those kinds of restrictions involved,” Tolle said, “we’ll be serving pop and cheese.”


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