U exploring alcohol sales at Coffman

In a survey, 22 percent of students said it was very important to have alcohol at Coffman.

Patricia Drey

Student leaders are exploring the idea of selling alcohol in Coffman Union for students who would like to drink while they play pool, bowl or hang out in the building.

“Clearly this year there has been a lot of interest in the issue on campus,” said Dan Weiske, a senior and president of the Twin Cities Student Unions Board of Governors. “Now that it’s on peoples’ minds, I think we want to take a look at it.”

Under a Board of Regents policy, the Campus Club is the only place alcohol is sold in Coffman Union.

Weiske said informal discussions among students and an October Parliamentary Debate Society debate on the subject demonstrate the campus buzz surrounding the issue.

While some student interest in the idea exists, a University staff member said she is unsure whether it is high enough to make the idea a reality.

Twenty-two percent of students surveyed said it was very important to them that the University serve alcohol in the union’s Goldy’s Gameroom, versus 44 percent who said it was not at all important, said Karen Lyons, marketing director for Coffman Union.

The University surveyed 1,000 students by e-mail and 608 returned the survey, she said.

The survey also showed keeping Goldy’s Gameroom alcohol-free was very important to 13 percent of students while 69 percent said it was not important, she said.

Because the results for the survey came back last week, the office has not had the chance to analyze the results, Lyons said.

The idea of serving alcohol in Coffman Union is not a new one, said Maggie Towle, director of the Twin Cities Student Unions.

Two years of alcohol-fueled Dinkytown riots show the climate is not good for discussing on-campus alcohol sales, she said.

To change school policy to allow alcohol sales in Coffman Union, all major student government groups would have to support it and there would probably have to be some type of student referendum, Towle said.

Next, the University administration, Board of Regents and Senate would have to be convinced, she said.

“Even though this question comes up all the time, I can’t say that we’ve had an overwhelming majority of students say that they want to serve alcohol in the union,” Towle said.

While a strong message of students wanting alcohol in Coffman Union has not reached Towle, employees at Goldy’s Gameroom said they have heard much demand for alcohol from patrons.

“A lot of people on Friday or Saturday nights say ‘If you had beer down here we’d come more often,’ ” said Kacie Kleimola, a biology sophomore who works in Goldy’s Gameroom. “I think we’d be a lot busier here if we served alcohol.”

Another employee, Brian Ksicinski, said he has heard the same comments, but does not believe serving beer there is a good idea.

“I think people would take advantage of it, and people would just be drunk all the time,” Ksicinski, an English junior, said.

Beer has been served on the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus since 1933, said Marc Kennedy, a publicist for Madison’s Wisconsin Union.

Students must show a state and university ID to be served alcohol at the unions, Kennedy said. Because the requirements are more stringent than most bars, underage drinkers are likely to avoid trying to be served there, he said.

Alcoholic beverages there are intentionally priced at the same rate or higher than area bars, he said.

Kennedy said serving alcohol has not created any major security problems for the school.