H’town turns down town hall wedding reception

SARANAC LAKE – Rob Carr and Danie Dorfer are going to have to find somewhere else to hold their wedding reception, and they have less than a month to do it.

At its meeting Thursday night, the Harrietstown town board rejected, for the second time in two months, the local couple’s proposal to use the Harrietstown Town Hall auditorium for a planned Sept. 27 reception.

Carr and Dorfer had originally planned to host their reception at Union Depot, but Carr said that request was turned down by the village of Saranac Lake. They approached the town board in late July, at which time their proposal to host the reception in the town hall auditorium received unanimous approval.

After they left that meeting, however, the board changed its mind and voted down the proposal because board members found it didn’t comply with the town’s building policy, which limits functions where alcohol would be served to those “sponsored by not for profits and community benefit.” The couple plan to serve beer and wine at the reception.

Carr appeared before the board again Aug. 14 and asked town officials to reconsider the decision. He argued that their wedding would benefit the community because they’d bring150 people to the village and encourage them to stay in village hotels and motels. He also said they’d have bartenders and hire as many people as necessary to check IDs and keep people from taking their drinks outside the building, which board members cited as a significant liability concern.

Following that meeting, Councilman Ron Keough and Councilwoman Meyette met with Carr and Dorfer to work out the details of their application, which came back to the board again Thursday night for reconsideration. Keough said the only thing he needed to know was the time when alcohol would be served, which is limited to four hours in the town’s policy. Carr said it would be from 5 to 9 p.m.

“Otherwise, it looks like they’ve complied with everything the board asked,” Keough said.

But Councilman Howard Riley, who wasn’t at the Aug. 14 meeting, said he didn’t understand why the application was back on the board’s table.

“It’s against our own written policy,” Riley said. “It’s not a community event. I think it’s opening up a whole different view of how we use the town hall. I think you guys should have a wonderful wedding reception; I just don’t think it should be here.”

Meyette noted that town officials and local business leaders have been trying to find ways to better market and increase the use of the town hall.

“I want this town hall utilized more as you all do,” Riley responded. “We’ve got a bond issue ready to go for like $750,000 to improve this beautiful building. But the point is that if we have one wedding reception here, you’re going to open it up to everything.”

Supervisor Mike Kilroy said he was concerned about the town being in competition for event space with private businesses.

“The second thing I’m concerned about is the alcohol,” he said. “Not being a drinker, I’m sorry, I can’t put the taxpayers in jeopardy for somebody walking out here and getting in their car.”

Meyette noted that the board has approved other events in the building where alcohol has been served, including, in the past year, the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Summer Gala and the St. Bernard’s School Gala.

“Are we going to stop allowing alcohol at all events?” Meyette asked.

“I would like that, but it’s not going to happen,” Kilroy responded. “The people we’ve had in here have all been not-for-profit. That’s why I’m OK with that.”

Carr argued that the reception should be allowed because it fits with the “community benefit” part of the policy.

“It’s the only venue in the village that can accommodate an event of this nature,” Carr said. “It’s a fantastic venue. We want people to be in a space that celebrates the character and the elegance of Saranac Lake, and I don’t think any other building does it like here in the auditorium. It’s important for us to show people this community and have them stay in this community.”

When the discussion came to an end, a motion to reconsider the couple’s application was put to a vote. It failed, with only Keough and Meyette in favor. Kilroy, Riley and Councilman Ed Goetz were opposed.

Carr said he and his fiancee are now looking for another site for the reception, likely somewhere outside the village.

“We have less then a month to get it together,” he said. “With all the planning the board had us do, we thought for sure they would have let us have it (in the town hall) – so much so that we sent out invitations already with the town hall listed as the venue. We have a lot to do now.”