Little support by Sonoma City Council for changing alcohol rules

Sonoma's City Council showed little support Monday night for reviewing the city's policies on consuming alcohol in public to deal with unruly behavior at city-sponsored events.

Mayor Joanne Sanders sparked the discussion by requesting that the city review police issues stemming from this year's Fourth of July celebration, which drew as many as 10,000 people to Sonoma and included problems with people drinking too much.

Police Chief Bret Sackett, in a memo to City Manager Linda Kelly, said the council may want to review the city's alcohol policies to curtail future problems.

Alcohol consumption is permitted in most of Sonoma's public places from 11:30 a.m. until dusk, unless extensions are granted.

Most council members said they saw no need to change the policy.

"I'm not in favor of having a few buttheads dictate how we go about our business," Councilman Ken Brown said.

Sackett reported that police made 13 arrests during this year's Fourth of July event and officers resorted to using force in four of them.

In his report, he attributed the unruly behavior to large crowds, warm weather and Sonoma's "liberal alcohol laws" and wrote that officers could have taken more people to jail on suspicion of public intoxication if the Police Department not been stretched so thin.

Several council members appeared surprised at Sackett telling them Monday night that people can possess and consume alcohol while walking Sonoma's streets, at least during hours when it is permitted.

People are not allowed to take alcohol out of bars or restaurants, however.

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