Bid to sell alcohol at UA's stadium awaits public input

By: Jaime Adame
Published: Wednesday, May 7, 2014
This photo shows club seating inside Razorback Stadium.
Photo by Aaron Skinner
This photo shows club seating inside Razorback Stadium.

Fayetteville officials and members of the public can now have their say about plans to sell beer and wine in indoor areas of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium at the University of Arkansas.

An application submitted April 25 to state authorities has been accepted for consideration.

The application from Sodexo, the company handling concession sales for UA athletics, has been expected since the university announced in February plans for limited alcohol sales to start with the fall football season.

A sign announcing the application was posted Monday outside the stadium, according to Sodexo, with the state's alcohol authority possibly deciding in June on the petition to sell beer and wine in the stadium's indoor "club" areas.

Sales in the designated areas would be open to people in suites and approximately 9,000 fans in club seating, where seats cost $100 to $150 per game and options include indoor or outdoor seating. But fans would not be allowed to have alcoholic drinks in the outdoor seating areas.

Fans in private "skybox" suites already can stock their suites with food and alcoholic beverages before games. There are approximately 2,800 suite-holder patrons, according to UA. They would not be allowed to take beer and wine purchased in the club areas back to their suites.

The stadium seats 72,000.

Fayetteville Mayor Lioneld Jordan, Fayetteville Police Chief Greg Tabor and Prosecuting Attorney John Threet will receive notice of the pending application.

"We'll wait and see what the local officials have to say, if they object or don't object," said Michael Langley, director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Division.

Threet was unavailable for comment Tuesday, and Jordan said he hadn't yet seen the application, adding that he would consult with police officials.

While Tabor also was unavailable for comment, a department spokesman noted that the stadium is within the jurisdiction of the University of Arkansas Police Department.

"The Fayetteville Police Department has no objection," said Sgt. Craig Stout.

Director Steve Gahagans with the UA Police Department did not respond to requests for comment.

Langley said an objection from officials would result in his initial denial.

"We deny the application and allow the applicant to appeal," Langley said, adding that such an appeals hearing would take place before the full Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

A recommendation by Langley to allow sales must be approved by the board, which meets on the third Wednesday of every month. Langley said the case could be decided at the June meeting.

Along with notifying public officials, Langley said a beverage-control agent also will knock on doors to notify off-campus neighbors near the stadium of the pending application. Notice also will be published in a local newspaper.

Langley won't make a decision on the application for at least 30 days.

The agency considers feedback from the public in deciding an application, Langley said.

"If we got 1,000 letters that said, 'We object to alcohol at the stadium,' the number is not as compelling as what you say," Langley said. Factors considered in the decision include where a facility is in relation to churches and the background of the person or group submitting the permit.

State officials returned Sodexo's first application as incomplete April 1, but there was no penalty.

The application submitted April 25 includes a map showing 13 stadium locations where beer and wine would be sold. It also describes how Sodexo would manage the sales: "We will sell beer and wine product from concession stands and portable food/beverage kiosks. In the areas serving the beer and wine our staffing projection is 200 which will include (concession workers, bartenders, floor supervisors, warehouse runners, and [identification] verifiers.)"

The application states that patrons must obtain a wristband from "designated and marked ID stations on each club level," and that patrons "will once again be asked for identification at the point of purchase along with checking for a wristband." Workers serving beer and wine will undergo a state certification process, the application states.

The application also includes business details for the sale of alcohol, an amendment to the concessions agreement between Sodexo and UA.

The amendment states Sodexo will pay UA 40 percent of the net sales of alcoholic beverages. The earlier application also included the agreement, but it wasn't signed by a Sodexo representative. The agreement, dated March 7, is signed in the most recent application.

Sodexo submitted two applications: one to sell alcohol at a "large meeting or attendance facility" and also an "off premises caterer's permit." The application states that Sodexo "would like to provide catering services in the stadium to suite holders, as well as to other locations on campus as requested by the University."

Both permit applications were signed by Nolan Hurley, listed as concession manager, operating under the trade name of Sodexo Operations LLC.

NW News on 05/07/2014