After second request, 3 of 5 commissioners say yes to special designated liquor license for event at Wessels

YORK – Two weeks ago, 3 of 5 county commissioners said no to a special liquor license for an event at Wessels Living History Farm. This week, upon another request from the applicant – Derek Keller, Blended Distiller – 3 out of 5 county commissioners said yes.

“This was on our agenda last time and it’s back again,” Commissioner Chairman Randy Obermier said. “The only change is the date. The event was supposed to be Oct. 6 and now it’s Oct. 20.”

Keller wants to sell alcohol during Adult Boo On The Farm, a 21-and-over event at the farm.

Keller attended the meeting alone last time. This time, he was joined by Genevieve Tonniges, who is the Wessels director.

Tonniges explained how the event, now scheduled for Oct. 20, would run from 5 p.m. until midnight and they would be implementing a “car charge” to encourage designated drivers and carpooling. She said she, Keller and volunteers would be checking all attendees’ IDs.

She said there would be food, activities and non-alcoholic drinks as well.

“It will be managed by the staff and 15 volunteers,” Tonniges said. “I’m a licensed food handler/bartender, as is Derek, and we will have more than enough people to manage this event. This event has been met with great excitement.”

“We are committed to providing a safe event which will be for people 21 and above,” Keller said. “We will check all IDs and use bracelets. And I know now, since the last meeting, that in order for me to submit this application with the state, I need to bring along a favorable recommendation from the county.”

There were questions regarding law enforcement involvement and Keller’s/Wessels’ relationship with local law enforcement.

“The York County Sheriff’s Department takes great care of us at Wessels and they are very diligent in helping us look after the farm,” Tonniges said. “They let us know if a light was left on, they watch the place very well for us at night. And three York police officers have offered their services as well.”

“Who are the deputies who volunteered?” asked Commissioner Jack Sikes.

Tonniges said the volunteers she referred to would be off-duty York police officers.

“And the York Police Department gave permission for them to volunteer? Because as long as they wear the uniform, they need permission from the city,” Sikes said.

“They would be there in plain clothes, just as volunteers, as they would be off-duty,” Tonniges said.

Tonniges was asked about past events at Wessels that have involved alcohol.

“The farm has had many, many events with alcohol being served, including many weddings,” Tonniges said. “And we have never needed any police intervention.”

Commissioner Stan Boehr asked if the Wessels Board of Directors had given unanimous approval for this particular event and Tonniges said yes, that was the case.

“I did receive your email,” Sikes said to Keller.

“I did not send you an email,” Keller responded to Sikes.

Sikes repeated that he received an email from Keller with Keller responding that he did not send one.

Then Sikes said he received an email from an individual who did not want to be named. “And in that citizen’s email, he said he didn’t appreciate your snide remarks about law  enforcement.”

“That was a miscommunication and I apologize,” Keller said to Sikes. “I have no disrespect for law enforcement and I apologize for how that came across last time.”

“Then I will email that person back to tell him that, due to your apology,” Sikes said. “But, last time, you said you had talked to the sheriff about this and I went straight over there after the meeting and he said no one had talked to him. The way it all came across . . .”

“It was taken a different way than I intended,” Keller responded.

Obermier moved for approval of the special designated license, which was seconded by Commissioner Daniel Grotz.

“I am against this motion,” said Commissioner Stan Boehr. “I received a long email from someone, saying Wessels is not intended for this type of event. Many people told me they appreciated my last vote against this special designated license and I will vote against it again.”

“I had input both ways,” said Commissioner Woody Ziegler. “But it’s the old educator in me that hates drinking and driving, it has nothing to do with Mr. Keller or Wessels Living History Farm. My struggle is with drinking and driving as it doesn’t match my value system.”

Voting in favor of the special designated permit were Obermier, Grotz and Sikes. Voting against were Boehr and Ziegler.

“I received information from county residents in both ways,” Sikes said. “Yes, I changed my mind but I tried to not put my personal feelings into my vote. I had to vote for York County.”

With a 3-2 vote, Keller can now apply for the special designated permit from the state.


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