German ballet was…

Mike Wereschagin

German ballet was not the only feature Tuesday night at Northrop Auditorium; several cases of German beer also made the show.
The first Twin Cities performance in 30 years by Germany’s Stuttgart Ballet at Northrop Auditorium marked another first-time event: the serving of alcohol at a campus concert venue.
Alcohol isn’t considered to be a special item at Northrop Auditorium. Instead, the University characterized it as a “normalization of services provided by the venue,” an amenity that isn’t just expected by sophisticated concertgoers, but required.
“It’s a fair balance, because you are competing for the dollars of the other events with mixed ages,” said attendee Karl Groth of St. Paul. “It’s part of the cultural evening.”
Last November, the Board of Regents voted 8-3 to allow alcohol sales at Northrop Auditorium for a one- year trial period, although state licensing was not granted until Jan. 15.
The exemption from University policy barring campus alcohol sales was grudgingly accepted by the regents, but not without a number of stipulations.
Beer and wine are the only alcoholic beverages to be sold, and only during Northrop-sponsored events. To prevent alcohol misuse, Northrop staff members are now required to undergo alcohol-awareness training.
The concert hall operates under a one-person, one-ID, one-beverage policy.
Alcohol, however, did not even rank as a reason some patrons came to Northrop Auditorium. It was simply considered an added bonus.
“I’ve had season tickets for 10 to 15 years, but it never occurred to me that (Northrop Auditorium) didn’t serve alcohol,” said Erika Johnson of St. Paul. Groth did not notice, either.
Getting liquor-ed
Lancer Foods, the caterer for the ballet, provided hot and cold sandwiches and grilled bratwurst, as well as imported German beer and wine. This far surpassed the venue’s previous board of fare, which consisted primarily of pretzels and soda.
Being able to sell alcohol was not the focus for Northrop officials. They saw it as an opportunity to provide a wider range of services for their patrons.
“What we’re trying to do is get more full-service catering,” said Linda Brandt, a Northrop spokeswoman. “We’re trying to be more like what the Guthrie does, be more like other venues.”
The policy change, backed by University President Mark Yudof, is intended to boost the auditorium’s revenue by $100,000 annually and make Northrop more competitive with other area concert halls, said Eric Kruse, vice president of University Services.
“We want to make Northrop as competitive as it can be in the Twin Cities,” Kruse said. “The way to do that is to make the experience something people want.”
The University formed a committee — which included Northrop’s director, the University Police chief, the event’s food and service vendor, and student-development and institutional-relations representatives — to determine which events are appropriate for alcohol sales.
Northrop is not allowed to sell alcohol at academic events such as lectures and receptions.
Alcohol-related problems, which were a point of contention at November’s regents meeting, were not expected to arise at last night’s ballet, Kruse said.
“We are going to do everything we can to make the event as safe as possible,” Kruse said. “I am confident we can provide a safe and appropriate environment.”

— V. Paul Virtucio contributed to this report.
Mike Wereschagin welcomes comments at [email protected] He can also be reached at (612) 627-4070 x3226.