SEBRING - Issues regarding the successful wine walks that have been occurring for more than a half year in dowtown Sebring are "pretty close" to being resolved, Sebring City Administrator Scott Noethlich said Monday.
Noethlich recently discussed concerns whether businesses have to get licenses to sell or give away alcohol, and the city's liability connected with the downtown event.
Last year, Wine Walk participants would buy wine glasses and then visit businesses where they received wine or non-alcoholic beverages. But questions arose whether that constituted sale of wine and whether the state required a license.
The Bureau of Law Enforcement for the state Department of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco clarified that any charge for people to participate in the Wine Walk would require a state permit.
That problem appears to have gone away since the event now does not require anyone to buy a glass or make any type of purchase. People bring their own glasses or some merchants provide cups.
Since businesses are allowed to give away beverages, but cannot sell them without getting a license, this trend meets state law, the state says.
Another issue raised is whether the city is liable if someone who participates in a Wine Walk has an accident.
Noethlich said Sebring would be potentially liable since the city waives enforcement of the ordinance that governs public drinking downtown for the event.
That may be resolved with the newly formed Downtown Business Alliance presenting the city a certificate of insurance that would apparently cover Wine Walks.
Noethlich said the city is being advised the group's certificate should make it clear that its insurance would be the initial source of coverage.
Lora Todd, who has organized events for downtown and is an organizer of the alliance, said she doesn't know whether the existing certificate does that.
But, she added, "We will do whatever is necessary."
It had appeared at first that every business would be required to present proof of insurance, but that's not the case, Noethlich said.
Noethlich said the City Council has yet to look at the issues, but they might be on the agenda for next week, adding the city has no control over whether businesses give away alcohol.