When the Belfast City Council took the unusual step in 2009 of approving a beer concession in one of the city’s alcohol-free parks, it was hard to know what sort of precedent had been set. The event was the Maine Celtic Celebration and while some opponents predicted drunken mobs roaming the Common, the weekend-long event went off without incident. The alcohol was contained, and while designated drinking areas can sometimes resemble internment camps, both in appearance and in a general vibe of desperation, the beer garden at the Celtic Festival blended right in with the rest of the family-friendly event. When organizers approached the city again this year, there was little discussion. The group had proven itself.

Then came the precedent part.

On Aug. 17, a group fronted by the Belfast Parks and Recreation Department requested permission to serve beer at a rock concert at City Park at the end of the month. The application made frequent reference to the Celtic Celebration, but the Council rightly turned down the request, noting that the event was to be held next to a playground on a Sunday afternoon, and perhaps most importantly, the request came less than two weeks before the event — by contrast, organizers of the Maine Celtic Celebration recently requested the use of several city parks for their next event, to be held in 2011.

From that first permission granted in 2009, the Council has vowed to judge each application for alcohol-inclusive events in the city’s parks on its own merits. And while it’s impossible to know with certainty that serving alcohol will cause problems, the Council should feel confident about going with its gut feeling.

The rock concert at City Park on Aug. 29 looks to be a great end-of-the-summer event, but adding drinking to the mix didn’t look wise. The Council saw as much and should be commended for being extra cautious with the public trust, Belfast’s wonderful all-ages parks.