In an effort to curb rowdiness, the city plans to restrict beer sales at next month's Fells Point Fun Festival, a move that organizers say would depress profits and possibly sound the death knell for the popular event.
"Some of the festivals are getting harder to control, particularly when you throw in elements of alcohol," said Aaron Stansbury, executive secretary of the city liquor board.
Consequently, the city is recommending that alcohol sales and consumption be restricted to a "beer garden." This year's festival is scheduled for Oct. 3 and 4 and is expected to draw as many as 200,000 people.
The new alcohol restrictions will make for a far different atmosphere at this year's festival, the 26th annual.
In the past, the festival site, which is centered around the foot of Broadway, took on the feel of Bourbon Street in New Orleans.
Festival-goers carried alcoholic drinks from the numerous bars in the area onto the street. Also, beer trucks were sprinkled throughout the site.
"There is no other festival where licensees are permitted to have customers leave with open containers," Mr. Stansbury said. The new restrictions would put an end to that practice.
But Bea Haskins, festival coordinator, said the alcohol restrictions could kill the event. Proceeds from the festival support the work of the Society for the Preservation of Fells Point and Federal Hill Inc.
If beer profits are cut, there may not be any money to continue with future festivals, she said.
"Our beer sales are essentially our profits," Ms. Haskins said.
In recent years, she said, beer sales generated about $60,000 per festival. With the restrictions, she said, profits would be at least halved.
"We don't understand the city's concern," she said.
"All the reports I get about the festival are people saying that it is delightful."
City officials say otherwise.
"There are those who felt that the festival had really gotten out of control," said Clinton R. Coleman, press secretary for Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke. He said some people had asked that the city shut down the festival.
The idea of restricted beer sales appeals to city police, who say past festivals have spawned some complaints from residents angry about the conduct of people drinking while returning to their cars at the end of the festival day.
"The festival is growing and we have public safety concerns," said Maj. Harry J. Koffenberger, commander of the city's Southeastern District.