You won’t be able to walk down the street or sidewalk in the Town of Orchard Park drinking a beer, and you’ll need a permit to sip a glass of wine at Yates Park this summer.
Town Board members Wednesday night created an open container/public consumption law that prohibits open containers of alcohol on public streets, sidewalks and other town-owned property. They also amended an existing ordinance to prohibit beer and wine in parks unless a permit is obtained.
While the new law has the support of the Buffalo Bills organization, the law is intended to cover the entire town, Police Chief Mark F. Pacholec said.
“When people are walking on public property, we see way too many times where individuals are either in an intoxicated or impaired condition, causing accidents,” he said, adding that some people have been struck and killed, while others have thrown beer bottles and cans at people and cars.
There are exemptions for community events and private parties, which will need permits. Still to be determined is what office or department will approve the permits or waivers. “We’re trying to make it a friendlier environment for people when there are large gatherings,” Pacholec said.
Two residents objected to the laws during public hearings Wednesday.
Eric Matwijow, of Abbott Road, suggested creating a special district around Ralph Wilson Stadium where drinking would not be allowed 24 hours before and after a Bills game.
“I do believe there is a need for this law game day only,” he said. “I don’t think the people up in Eagle Heights or near the stadium when it’s not game day are irresponsible people.”
Matwijow said the problem started with the closing of Abbott in front of the stadium on game days. He suggested the Bills create a tailgate area for families only.
“They have created this problem where people park off-site,” he said.
Howie Holmes, of Freeman Road, suggested the town put off the approvals Wednesday night for more study. “I know what you’re getting at, but I think you’re going way off base with all this,” he said.
Andy Major, vice president of event operations and game-day experience for the Bills, said the organization is very supportive of the law.
“We think this ties in very nicely with what the Buffalo Bills have been trying to do with the fan experience,” he said. “Over the last couple years, we’ve made a very concerted effort to improve what’s going on at the Bills games.”
Pacholec said the town has had problems in recent years with some young people who have caused problems with drinking. “This gives us another tool to take these people off the road and the community so they can’t do harm to themselves or others,” he said. But he said police will use discretion on whether to charge someone with a violation, which could mean up to 15 days in jail and a fine of up to $250.