Backwash

The City of Denver puts a cork in the outdoor-concert alcohol policy at the Botanic Gardens.

We all know that wine can make even the best music sound that much better. But thanks to some party-pooping liquor-code policies, vino has been vetoed from the list of picnic items that concert fans can pack in for this summer's outdoor performances at the Denver Botanic Gardens. Those who frequent the DBG Summer Concert Series -- which this year features a typically flowery lineup, including such artists as Keb' Mo', Etta James and Peter, Paul & Mary -- know that part of its appeal lies in the DBG's laissez-faire attitude toward consumables. Gardengoers have always been welcome to bring their cheese, their children and their drink of choice, just as long as they don't go traipsing through the tulips in a Chardonnay haze.

According to spokeswoman Holly Jones, the DBG has never had any problems with its open-gate policy toward wine drinkers. After all, a Gardens concert is basically a whole lot of people in sandals lying about on blankets, sipping from plastic cups and discussing current specials at Whole Foods.

Unfortunately, the bottle-in-the-bag element that partly defines the DBG series (and other outdoor summer concert series, such as the one held in the Greek amphitheater at Civic Center Park) also happens to be against the rules. So says Helen Gonzales, director of the Denver Department of Excise and Licenses, who learned about all of this autonomous wine-bringing when a member of the DBG public-relations staff forwarded her an e-mail announcing the summer schedule. The line "Concertgoers may bring food and beverages to enjoy during the performance" triggered her inner liquor-code enforcer, Gonzales remembers.

"I could just tell there was something about it that wasn't right," she says. "I called the state liquor board, and they agreed with me -- that individuals aren't allowed to bring any alcohol into a public facility. There isn't even a permit for this kind of thing on the books, so I don't even know how it could be done."

While Gonzales says she doesn't want to crash the party, alas, she must. Last week she alerted DBG brass that while the nonprofit organization is free to apply for an arts license that would allow it to sell alcohol on the premises, the bloom is off the bring-your-own rose. Or rosé.

"I've never actually been to one of these [concerts], but my friends have, and they just rave about how nice it is and how comfortable," she says. "I know some of them might be mad at me.

"Sometimes I'm afraid to open my mail, because I know I'll find out that someone is doing something they shouldn't, and I'll have to stop it," Gonzales adds. "I just got a notice from the museum and the library about some fundraiser they are doing. I'm kind of feeling like, 'Oh, no. I don't think I even want to know what's in there.'"

 
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