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Duo wants to bring alcohol and cabaret to Wakefield's Opera House


May 06, 2010
WAKEFIELD —Two residents asked selectmen for permission to bring cabaret — eventually with alcohol — into the Opera House at the Town Hall.

Opera House Performing Arts Committee (OHPAC) members Ed Morrison and Paul Winckler made their pitch during the selectmen's meeting on April 28. OHPAC is responsible for keeping the Opera House busy —and they've done so while making a little bit of money, said the pair. OHPAC is the organization that hosts the Bearded Wonders Variety Show.

"We've done a fair job keeping people coming in and letting them know that the Opera House is here for a purpose," said Morrison. "For the last year or two I have had in the back of my mind that we would love to have a cabaret performance."

Morrison said he got the idea when he and his wife were at a cabaret in Booth Bay, Maine. He explained that "cabaret" is defined as stage entertainment that people watch while wining and dining from tables. He felt he needed to explain what cabaret means because he'd spoken to an unidentified "young man" before the meeting who thought cabaret was a type of performance that features women in scanty attire. The confusion may have been due to the fact that there's a movie called "Cabaret" which is about a woman who performs in a girly club in Berlin, Germany during the 1930s. The movie came out in 1972 and starred Liza Minnelli.

Morrison said he hoped to have such a show over the summer with snack food and soft drinks. Further, Morrison said there was a cabaret show in Tamworth recently.

Winckler went further than Morrison by adding that alcohol could be added to the shows in the future.

"He's talking about sodas and nibblies," said Winckler. "I'm talking about beverages of moderation — perhaps beer and wine."

Selectmen liked the idea of cabaret at the Opera House, but held off on making a decision about the alcohol until they could investigate what it would mean in terms of liability. The selectmen suggested that a possible way around the liability concern is to have a caterer serve the booze.

"According to my mother this wouldn't be the first time" alcohol was served at town hall, said Selectman Mark Duffy. Back in the old days there were dances with alcohol at the town hall, he said.

Selectman Peter Kasprzyk said he would be surprised if people would be allowed to drink in a public building because drinking in public isn't legal.

However, it was mentioned that functions with alcohol are allowed at the Greater Wakefield Resource Center in Union, which is a town owned building.

In a follow up interview, Police Chief Ken Fifield said drinking on town property isn't legal, but selectmen have the authority to waive that restriction. Fifield didn't think alcohol service would pose any problems as long as a licensed server was used.

"People can get drinks in other places," he said.

A Greater Wakefield Resource Center staff member confirmed that events with alcohol are permitted at the building.

Selectmen's chair Ken Paul said having tables and chairs set up in the Opera House wouldn't be considered a fire hazard because the tables would form clearly defined isles. Having lots of chairs in rows is actually more of a hazard, he said.

On Tuesday, Town Administrator Robin Frost said there's been no update regarding the liability of allowing alcohol in the Opera House. The selectmen have been busy with other concerns such as finding a new town administrator. Frost departs for a new job in Gorham on May 24. Resumes for the position are due May 14 and interviews will start soon after, she said.

Winckler and Morrison said they wanted to get the public's opinion about cabaret and alcohol at the Opera House. Morrison can be reached at 552-0126. Winckler can be reached at 522-3157.

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