SUMMERVILLE -- Drinks will be the issue on tap for Town Council on Wednesday. And a crowd is expected.

Council will hold a public hearing on a proposed law that would allow people to drink beer or wine in publicly owned places during "special events" such as a park concert or wedding. Permits would be granted as exemptions to a town law prohibiting possession of an open container of alcohol in public places.

The hearing is scheduled to precede a final vote on the exemption. People have been calling Town Hall about the proposal, said Lisa Wallace, administrative services director.

Meanwhile, council also is expected to take a final vote on limiting public comment at the meetings. The apparent interest in the beer and wine exemption might have council members reconsidering this rule, too.

Mayor Bill Collins proposed the drink law to boost tourism. The one-day permits would be granted on a case-by-case basis, he has said.

But even supporters are cautious about how open residents will be to the idea in this traditionally staid-in-its-ways community. For instance, a St. Patrick's Day festival closing off the town's Short Central could win a permit. The quirky shopping district block is half closed off and brick-walked already.

But as other Lowcountry communities opened up their public consumption laws to allow beer and wine at events, Summerville has long stuck to its small-town, family oriented traditions.

As recently as 2006, with that "small town" community well established as a bustling suburb, leaders debated before ending a Prohibition era "blue law" that prevented Sunday sales of beer or wine. That change didn't draw much public opposition.

The preliminary council vote on the drink law in August was unanimously in favor.

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