Council approves alcohol sales during Alabama athletic events at Coleman Coliseum

Jason Morton
The Tuscaloosa News
The Tuscaloosa City Council has approved the sale of alcoholic beverages at Coleman Coliseum during men's and women's basketball games and gymnastics meets. The vendor said that only beer, wine and seltzers will be available.

Beer and wine will soon be available for Alabama basketball and gymnastics fans at Coleman Coliseum.

And pending the speed of the Alabama Alcoholic Beverage Control Board’s license approval bureaucracy, adult beverages could be sold as early as Saturday’s 7 p.m. matchup with the University of Kentucky.

The ABC Board must give final say on cold ones at the coliseum now that the City Council gave its near-unanimous approval for the license – only Councilman John Faile voted against it – as sought by Levy Premium Foodservice LP, the University of Alabama’s concessionaire.

Only beer, wine and seltzers – no hard liquor – will be sold at Coleman Coliseum, and a representative for Levy Premium Foodservice said all employees and contractors involved with the sale of alcohol have undergone responsible vendor training.

Two of the concession stands operated by Levy Premium Foodservice – the Chick-fil-A stand and the Papa Murphy’s location – will not offer the alcoholic beverages, though there will be some kiosk-like locations to meet demand.

Q&A:Alabama AD Greg Byrne on about Nick Saban's contract, Coleman Coliseum's future and NIL

Additionally, every purchaser of alcohol, no matter his or her age, will be asked to provide identification, the representative said.

“At the end of the day, if you want to have a beer you’re just going to have to show your ID,” the representative said.

As of now, alcohol will be available at Coleman Coliseum only for men's and women's basketball games and gymnastics meets, under the current restrictions of the special retail alcohol license approved by the City Council.

City officials said this license was chosen because the venue does not fit neatly into the category of a bar or restaurant, which typically obtains licenses for on-premise consumption of booze.

Additionally, city staff members said Levy Premium Foodservice can renew the license annually with the ABC Board with no need for involvement by the Tuscaloosa City Council.

Additional council action would be required, however, should UA decide to expand the sale of beer and wine at on-campus sporting beyond Coleman Coliseum.

University of Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne said UA will be following state and SEC alcohol policies. But as of now, there is no word on whether Byrne or other UA officials will opt to allow the sale of these beverages during football games at Bryant-Denny Stadium.

However, the Levy Premium Foodservice representative said the company will explore “hawking,” or selling beer, wine and seltzer from the aisles, if or when the beverages are approved for sale during football games.

Alcoholic beverages can now be sold on campuses throughout the Southeastern Conference after, in spring 2019, the SEC lifted its ban on alcohol sales at all on-campus stadiums in public seating, ultimately leaving the decision up to the individual schools as to whether they would allow alcoholic beverages during sporting or other events.

It followed a recommendation by a working group of campus leaders created at the May 2018 SEC spring meetings. The group was charged with a review of the existing conference game management policy governing the availability of alcoholic beverages at SEC athletics events and to identify a direction for consideration by the membership.

The policy did not affect suites, clubs or privately leased areas in which the sale and distribution of alcoholic beverages was previously permitted under existing SEC regulations, but it did limit the sales of alcoholic beverages in the public seating areas to beer and wine.

It also required any institution that chose to sell alcohol to implement a server training program for staff.

Alabama was among the initial holdouts on this new policy that several schools, such as LSU and Ole Miss, immediately adopted.

At the time, UA officials said they were content with the current campus status quo.

“This new policy allows each campus to decide what is right for them,” UA said in a statement in 2019. “These guidelines will be helpful as we move forward and have future conversations.

“We have one of the best game-day atmospheres in the country, and we don’t envision making changes at this time.”

Now, it seems, it’s time for a new approach.

"It's something a lot of our fans have been asking for," Byrne said last week. "We've been able to watch the other schools and the reporting we have gotten back from other schools is that alcohol incidents at their games actually go down once they sell because it's a much more controlled environment."

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