INDIANAPOLIS | The Indiana Alcohol and Tobacco Commission followed the recommendation of the Porter County Alcoholic Beverage Board and voted 4-0 on Tuesday to deny the sale of alcohol at the restored pavilion at Indiana Dunes State Park.
The commission had previously sent the alcohol license application for Pavilion Partners LLC back to the local board for a second public hearing and board recommendation. On its second attempt in September the board voted 3-1 to deny the permit.
"The local board's findings were supported by substantial evidence," said David Cook, chairman of the state alcohol licensing commission. "I think it's our duty to follow the local board's vote."
Commissioner Dale Grubb said he found merit on both sides of the equation. He said he understood residents being opposed to alcohol at the dunes because of problems in the past, but "as a Hoosier," he'd like to see the state parks and historic buildings maintained.
"And recognizing the current economic environment that we've all been under for several years, unless a private developer comes in and takes hold of something with their investment, I don't know how we maintain some of those buildings," he said. "Regardless of the vote, perhaps people can try to work together and find a solution that would benefit everyone."
Norm Hellmers, of Valparaiso, was one of just a few people representing Dunes Action Committee, which opposed the liquor license, who attended Tuesday's hearing in Indianapolis.
"We are deeply gratified by the commission's decision," he said. "The commissioners all agreed that there is a need to restore the pavilion, and Dunes Action is very much in favor of that. We just think the way it's being gone about is not the right way. We are opposed to alcohol, but we are very much in favor of restoring the pavilion building."
Dunes Action co-founder Desi Robertson, after hearing about the commission's decision, said she hopes it signals the beginning of the end for "these inappropriate plans."
“The pavilion is in great need of restoration, but alcohol isn’t needed for that to happen," she said. "The commission recognized that this a family beach and that safe, outdoor recreation is what it’s all about.”
Pavilion Partners has 15 days to file an appeal if they choose.
"They are required to file a notice of an appeal with the agency and must proceed and exhaust all agency remedies before asking for judicial review," Cook said.
Pavilion Partners spokeswoman Deb Butterfield released this statement on Tuesday:
"Pavilion Partners is disappointed by the State Board’s vote and continues to be surprised by the denial of the liquor license for the Dunes Pavilion. It is too early to determine what their next course of action will be and they will continue to explore their options."
Indiana's Department of Natural Resources last year agreed to a contract with Pavilion Partners to restore the 1929-30 Lake Michigan beachfront facility and operate the pavilion.
Construction is underway on a new concession area and "comfort center" with restrooms, showers and family dressing rooms. A new banquet center to be built adjacent to the pavilion is also planned.