Pennsylvania state Sen. Jim Ferlo and Kennywood Park managers have begun talks over the future of the amusement park's pending liquor license.
The two parties first met Friday, after Mr. Ferlo petitioned the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board in opposition to the park's proposed alcohol sales. In that petition, he asked that citizens be allowed to testify their support or opposition at a formal public hearing in Pittsburgh before Kennywood receives its license. In response, Kennywood representatives met with Mr. Ferlo to discuss how alcohol sales at the park might best be regulated.
"We had a very important discussion," said Mr. Ferlo, whose district consists of parts of Allegheny, Westmoreland and Armstrong counties. "I suggested that they come up with a clearly enumerated list of how sales will happen in the park and how they will deal with public safety concerns. I am legitimately concerned, but I have a lot of faith and trust in the Kennywood management."
In his original letter of protest to the Liquor Control Board, filed June 1, Mr. Ferlo expressed concern that selling alcohol at Kennywood would undermine the "family and historic nature of the park" and increase the probability of illness, injury or death on the rides.
But on Friday, Mr. Ferlo said that if Kennywood representatives agree to certain safety protocols, including identification checks and increased security presence, a formal public hearing may be unnecessary. Meetings today and Tuesday will further define these protocols, he added.
Jeff Filicko, Kennywood's public relations manager, called the meeting with Mr. Ferlo productive. He said that in selling alcohol, public safety would be the park's first concern, adding that beer would be sold only in a contained "beer garden" near its lagoon. The park tested the sale of alcohol in a similar space in September, he said, which patrons asked to be continued.
"If we thought that selling beer would be detrimental to safety or to our reputation as a family park, we would of course not pursue it," Mr. Filicko said. "Ultimately, serving beer was a business decision requested by guests, a way to stay competitive with other amusement parks in the state."
Before entering the beer garden, patrons would have to show valid identification, Mr. Filicko added, and there would be a limit on how many beverages they could consume. If granted a license, he said the park would not begin selling beer until school picnic season ends, in July.
Kennywood petitioned the Liquor Control Board in April, asking for a liquor license transfer from Cavanaugh's, a company-owned restaurant in McKeesport. No longer open, the restaurant was bought by the Heninger and McSwigan families, who owned Kennywood until it was bought in 2008 by the Spain-based international entertainment operator Parques Reunidos. The West Mifflin council approved the license transfer after a public hearing.
The change in park ownership was not a factor in the decision to sell alcohol at the park, Mr. Filicko said.
Across the country, alcohol is sold at several amusement parks, including Six Flags, headquartered in Texas, and Busch Gardens, located in Virginia and Florida. In Pennsylvania, alcohol is sold at Hersheypark in Dauphin County.
Liquor Control Board spokeswoman Stacey Witalec declined to comment on whether Kennywood eventually would join that list.