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Liquor license denial for Cabin Fever perfectly reasonable [Editorial]

Erring on the side of caution is generally a good idea, and if the decision last week by the Harford County Liquor Control board to deny an event license to the Cabin Fever festival in Darlington was an error, it was on the side of caution.

Planned as a nonprofit event featuring a day of survivalist workshops, including gun demonstrations, followed by an evening of music featuring acts of national renown, Cabin Fever at Camp Ramblewood had been planned several weeks, if not longer, in advance.

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It came as something of a surprise when, three days before the festival, organizers appeared before the liquor board seeking a nonprofit, one-day beer, wine and liquor license.

The board, with four members present, split 2-2 on the decision, so the motion failed because it didn't garner a majority.

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Liquor board inspector Charles Robbins offered his recommendation on the matter, saying: "I have been a hunter and fisherman all my life, and the idea of firearms and alcohol do not mix."

The characterization may have been an over-simplification of the issues at play. Organizers told the board alcohol would not be served until after 4:30 p.m. after the demonstration portion of the event had concluded and the concert portion was poised to begin.

The split decision on the matter was perfectly understandable. Harford County plays host to many festivals and events, public and private, over the course of a year and requests for short-term liquor licenses come before the liquor board very regularly. To a large degree, the Cabin Fever event was very much in keeping with this practice. A few things, however, set Cabin Fever apart. As two-day events go, it promised to be relatively large, and firearms training and a firearms range were on the agenda. Add to the mix that the request for a license came in the week of the event, and there's reason for pause.

The organizers had solid answers to address concerns, notably that demonstrations would be over before any beer or wine would start flowing. It's reasonable to take the organizers at their word on this for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is people who are serious about firearms training and organizing survivalist events are generally also very serious about firearms safety, to include the cardinal rule that guns and alcohol don't mix.

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The lateness of the request, however, is reason for pause. It is reasonable to argue that organizers of an event such as Cabin Fever should have their ducks in a row well in advance of a few days before the event.

The liquor board certainly had enough information last week to make a decision on whether to grant a license, and it would have been reasonable to have allowed the serving of alcohol after the demonstration events had drawn to a close. It could, therefore, be argued that the liquor license denial was an error. If it was, however, it was based on a reasonable level of caution, and therefore a perfectly rational, if not preferred, decision.

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