People celebrating the Fourth of July at the Empire State Plaza next Thursday will be prohibited from bringing their own alcoholic beverages to the party.
State officials announced the ban Tuesday morning, at the same time saying longtime event benefactor Price Chopper supermarkets will continue to sponsor the party for the next five years.
Security at the plaza during its signature summer event was another concern discussed, especially in light of April’s terrorist bombings at the Boston Marathon. Three race spectators were killed and more than 200 were injured when separate, concealed bombs exploded.
“We are going to provide security, as we always have in the past,” said RoAnn Destito, commissioner of the state Office of General Services, which runs the plaza. “This has been a secure event. … We certainly will be looking at what took place in Boston, but we believe with our state police and our added security, we will have a secure event.”
In May, with the marathon troubles in mind, Albany police enforced new security measures at the CDPHP Workforce Team Challenge running race. Runners and spectators traditionally gather in the plaza before and after the race.
The rules included no backpacks or coolers. Anything brought into the plaza had to be stored inside a clear plastic bag for easy inspection. No domestic pets were allowed on site, and photo identification was required for both spectators and participants.
For the Fourth, no private coolers will be allowed at the afternoon and evening fireworks party, one of the largest in the Capital Region. The Office of General Services’ new alcohol policy applies to all events at the plaza, such as outdoor cinema nights and summer concerts. In many cases, vendors will sell beer and wine.
Next Thursday, beer and wine will be sold at the plaza to people with proper identification for $4.50 a cup.
Destito said the idea is to return the Fourth of July gathering to a more family-friendly environment. In the past, she said, people have complained about people smoking and drinking around their children.
“For families, we are setting up two family fun zones, one at each end of the plaza, that will be alcohol- and tobacco-free,” Destito said. “These areas will feature our fun kid activities, including face painting, a bounce house and pony rides. Glass bottles and pets, except for service animals, will not be permitted.”
Having vendors sell alcoholic drinks will give Office of General Services personnel a better chance to control who is drinking.
“There’s never been the ability to monitor who’s drinking, the underage drinking, how much people are drinking,” Destito said. “We’re attempting to shore up our safety and security.”
Price Chopper has been sponsoring the Fourth of July event since the 1976 assembly that saluted the nation’s Bicentennial. Jerry Golub, Price Chopper’s president and chief executive officer, said locking up sponsorship of the celebration was important for his company.
“It means we’ll continue to be part of an event that’s been an integral part of who we are and our presence in this hometown region of ours for another five years, and we’re really proud of that,” Golub said.
Price Chopper sponsors about 15 other fireworks shows in towns and cities where its stores are located. Company officials said the Albany show, which has attracted between 25,000 and 30,000 people in past years, is the most elaborate.
“Sometimes you do things because it’s the right thing to do,” Golub said. “It’s about who we are as a company, it’s about the fact that we are an American company and we have been in this community for so long. I think it would be shame if we didn’t take advantage of that and give back to this community to help everyone celebrate this important holiday.”
Grounds at the plaza will open at 3 p.m. for the celebration, with a naturalization ceremony at 4. Musical performances by the United States Military Academy Band and others will begin at 4:30, leading to headliner Johnny Rivers at 8:05.
Fireworks will begin at 9:25.