Was Vashon man's $1,000 drinking fine warranted? | In Our Opinion

Drinking at the beer garden

When The Beachcomber heard Monday that a patron had been fined more than $1,000 for allegedly drinking too much at the Strawberry Festival’s beer garden, we thought it was likely the stuff of rumor — an urban legend, Vashon-style. It turns out it’s true.

At least one young man was handed a civil citation for having a few too many at the exuberant but peaceful beer garden — a Chamber of Commerce fundraiser — in the Vashon Plaza parking lot Saturday night. His fine: $1,025.

Those who were there and witnessed the interaction between the state Liquor Control Board agent and the young man say he was not drunk. He had only moments before entered the beer garden and poured himself a glass of beer from a pitcher his brother had just purchased, witnesses said. The scene, they insisted, was peaceful.

The trouble is it’s impossible to know for sure if the man was drunk or not because state Liquor Control Board agents are not required under state law to administer breathalyzers before issuing a fine. They use visual cues — slurred speech, a stumbling gait — to determine if someone is drunk. In other words, it’s a subjective call on their part.

That might be OK in some situations, except that this subjective call carries one of the heftiest fines around. Granted, the guy won’t have a criminal record as a result of the alleged infraction. But shelling out $1,025 for appearing drunk doesn’t smack of the kind of due process we’ve come to expect in this country.

The beer garden is definitely not for everyone. Compared to the street dance in front of US Bank Saturday night, it seemed rowdier and wilder. People were there — at least in part — to drink. And drink they did. Those who don’t like such scenes, however, can steer clear of the beer garden. And others — adults only, of course — can enjoy this long-standing Island tradition and drink responsibly. According to several observers, that’s what was happening both Friday and Saturday night.

We urge the Chamber of Commerce to work well with the Liquor Control Board to find out just what happened Saturday night and to ensure that such a sorry incident doesn’t cap next year’s otherwise fine festival tradition.

Lavender’s sweet scent

Like the calm that often follows a storm, the Lavender Festival is the perfect antidote to the Strawberry Festival’s throngs of people. It’s quiet. It’s about flowers. It’s homegrown and oh-so-Vashon.

This is not to say the Strawberry Festival isn’t a quintessential Vashon event. It is; and this year, it was loads of fun. But the crowds and energy are not for everyone. And many of those souls just might enjoy what three Vashon lavender farms offer up each year — a stroll through beautiful gardens awash with the sweet scent of lavender.

And this year is particularly special because the farms — cooperating by way of their shared organization, the Vashon Island Lavender Growers Association — have pooled their resources to provide a free shuttle to their far-flung farms.

So imagine this, all you traffic-weary Islanders: Catch the shuttle Saturday morning in town. Sit back and watch the scenery. Get delivered up to a lavender farm where lemonade will be served, music might be playing and children will no doubt be frolicking, Make a lavender wand to tuck in a drawer. Learn a thing or two about how to grow this aromatic delight. Then climb back onto the shuttle and visit another scent-drenched expanse of pastoral beauty.

Bring a book. Relax. And enjoy another facet of life on our beautiful Island.

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