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Debate brews over public drinking law

The Village of East Aurora is particular on many fronts: fighting Wal-Mart and other development and preserving its historical integrity and rural character.

But one thing that seems to be of little concern in the 135-year-old village is drinking in public.

Though little has been said publicly over the years, East Aurora lacks a law banning open containers. The only place the village cracks down on drinking in public is its parks.

It's something that Village Trustee Al Kasprzak, a Buffalo police officer, feels the village should think about changing. A week ago, Kasprzak said he was attending an Aurora Town Board meeting when he was stunned to learn during public discussion that the village lacked such an ordinance.

"How do you enforce that -- you can just walk the streets with alcohol?" Kasprzak asked East Aurora Police Chief Ronald Krowka toward the end of Tuesday's Village Board meeting.

Krowka replied: "You don't [enforce] it."

"We try not to [let] that out," said Krowka, noting that village officials don't go out of their way to broadcast the lack of a policy.

And Trustee Ernest Scheer thought it unwise to get the word out that the village lacks such a policy, even asking reporters "not to publish" anything about the issue.

Kasprzak, meanwhile, wants the village to reconsider its position on drinking in public.

"If this is something kept quiet, you could have someone walk down the street with an open six-pack. It's better to have [an ordinance] in your arsenal."

Kasprzak noted the timing is right, pointing a request of East Aurora Moose Lodge 370 to operate a beer tent during the community's July 3 Independence Day festivities.

"I think there's a glaring need for [an ordinance]," he said. "It's nice to have it just in case. When I heard we didn't have one at the town meeting last week, I was stunned."

Others don't see the urgency.

"I can't see East Aurora turning into New Orleans anytime soon," Trustee Peter Mercurio said.

Trustee Kevin Biggs, also a Buffalo police officer, pooh-poohed the need for a law. "I don't think it's necessary," he said.

The Village Board may review the matter in coming months, said Mayor Clark Crook.

e-mail: krobinson@buffnerws.com

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