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Alcohol ban forces wine festival to move


St. John's College in Annapolis has banned alcohol from campus, a move that forced a popular summer wine festival to relocate.

Organizers for the Annapolis Wine and Beer Festival plan to move the event to the lawn of the Elks lodge on Rowe Boulevard. The fifth annual festival, called "Celebrate Annapolis," has been rescheduled for July 25.

The Kunta Kinte festival, a celebration of African-American heritage and culture, also will not be serving alcohol, a St. John's administrator said. The annual fall festival is named for the African who was brought to the United States as a slave and whose story was made famous by his descendant, the late Alex Haley, in "Roots."

"It is not in the best interest of the college to have on its campus outside events where alcoholic beverages are being served," said college Vice President Jeffrey A. Bishop.

The policy was approved last month, after residents of the district and its alderman sharply objected to expanding the wine festival to include beer.

Although festival promoters suspected that Alderman John Hammond had influenced the college's decision, the Ward 1 Republican denied having played a role.

"St. John's arrived at this independently," Hammond said. "It was a surprise to me."

Hammond and the Ward One Residents Association protested when organizers proposed expanding the festival to include out-of-state wines and beers. The General Assembly passed a law this spring to allow the festival -- which was started to showcase Maryland wines -- to expand after a number of wineries pulled out, citing low attendance.

Last year, only 6 of Maryland's 11 wineries participated. The festival poured out a new sampling of home-grown music and food, along with imported wines, to attract a younger and larger crowd.

Hammond has sponsored a bill pending before the City Council that would charge the organizers a $1,000 promoter's fee and prohibit the festival during the Naval Academy's Commissioning Week and the annual boat shows.

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