Water Wizz liquor license a slippery slope, Select Board says

Nov 15, 2022

Water Wizz of Cape Cod will stay dry for the foreseeable future. 

The town Board of Selectmen voted to deny the water park a year-round liquor license during their meeting on Tuesday, Nov. 15. David Darling, owner of WW Cranberry Highway, Inc., the company that  purchased Water Wizz in 2021, said that the liquor license application was a response to consumer demand. Despite Water Wizz’s seasonal nature, Darling applied for a year-round liquor license because he plans to open the park for Halloween and Christmas events in the future. 

While Selectman Ronald Besse was open to increased business for the park — and therefore increased revenue for the town — the rest of the Board saw the license as a slippery slope to excessive and underage drinking. 

“The idea of people walking around drinking concerns me somewhat,” Selectman Alan Slavin said. “You’re going to have kids and adults all mixed together while they’re drinking.” 

“No one’s going to be going down the water slides with a pina colada or anything like that,” said Mike Levinson, Darling’s attorney. “It’s going to be controlled.” 

Darling’s plan was to serve domestic and imported beers, tropical cocktails and “vacationy” drinks from carts and small tiki bars throughout the park. He could not say exactly where these bars would be located, except for one which would be located in what is now a tattoo studio. All drink containers would be made of plastic, due to the danger of broken glass in a place where many go barefoot. 

“They are not going to allow the consumption or sale of alcoholic beverages in any water slide or pool area,” Levinson said. 

Darling argued that other water parks in Massachusetts, such as Great Wolf Lodge and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor, serve alcohol to customers. Selectman Jared Chadwick added that the “astronomical” price of drinks at Hurricane Harbor deters drunkenness.

“You don’t really see anyone getting trashed out there,” he said. “I hope that if this is granted to you, that you keep those prices extremely high so we don’t spend resources like Police and EMS going for events like that.” 

“It’s an added amenity,” Darling said. “The prices aren’t going to be $2 draft beers.” 

Doing her own research, Select Board Chair Judith Whiteside found that the aforementioned parks serve alcohol only in sit-down indoor eateries, not in open-air “walkabout” venues like Darling proposed. 

“I have a problem with that, to be honest with you,” she said. “I’m not interested in what they do in Florida, Louisiana and Alaska… We’ve been very, very conservative about making sure that the drinking is restricted to a specific area.” 

Darling called her concerns “valid,” but said that he would train his staff to check IDs and not serve alcohol to visibly intoxicated guests. Water Wizz already checks bags, he said, so that people do not smuggle alcohol inside. 

“We do our best to keep alcohol out of the park,” he said. “It’s going to make its way in there, hopefully we can do better keeping it out when we’re in control of it.” 

Darling cited his experience as the owner of four hotels with liquor licenses, but the Board responded that hotels and water parks are very different places to serve alcohol. 

Town Administrator Derek Sullivan said that in the summer months, Wareham EMS and the Onset Fire District frequently attend to Water Wizz guests who pass out from the heat. If drinking was involved, he said, the problem would only get worse. 

“It’s been a tremendous tax on our staff,” he said. “I just have to admit that’s one of my concerns.” 

The Board was open to giving Water Wizz a liquor license in the future, provided that Darling provide, in the words of Clerk Tricia Wurts, “an actual, substantive plan” of where and how the park would serve alcohol. 

“We should be negotiating a lot stronger with Water Wizz to come up with an idea about how this could work for them,” Slavin said. “In the long term, I think this could work.”