Northrop

Emily Dalnodar

Northrop Auditorium turned 21 years old in 1940, but could never have alcohol. State legislators took a step to change this Tuesday.
The House of Representatives passed the Omnibus Liquor Bill by a vote of 98 to 29, allowing the sale of wine, hard liquor and 3.2 beer in Northrop Auditorium’s Dudley Riggs Theatre.
The bill also included liquor licenses for Macalester College during its Scottish Fair, the finish line of the Twin Cities Marathon — which is at the Capitol — and the Fitzgerald Theatre, which stands near several churches in St. Paul.
Local restrictions prevent the Fitzgerald from distributing liquor because of local restrictions in proximity to churches. The prohibition against liquor licenses on the Capitol grounds prevents marathon officials from distributing liquor.
Northrop Auditorium suffers from alcohol restrictions because of a general law stating that no one can distribute alcohol within one-tenth of a mile of a University’s main administrative building.
The law prevents the auditorium from competing with other liquor-selling venues.
“All the other theaters — the Guthrie, for example — sell liquor at intermission,” said Dale Schatzlein, Northrop Auditorium director. “If you could go to the Guthrie and get a glass of wine at intermission, why not at Northrop? (The bill) is just bringing us up to the 21st century, and we are in a competitive environment.”
Schatzlein said this is not the first time Northrop Auditorium officials vied for alcohol sales.
“It’s been a standing request for about 20 years,” he said, acknowledging that this is the first time the Legislature took it seriously.
Alcohol sales remain on hold, however, until the Senate votes on the issue. The bill already passed the Senate’s Commerce Committee on March 11, but is still pending on the floor.
“It’s a routine bill; it’ll pass without too much discussion,” said Sen. Allan Spear, DFL-Minneapolis, and University history professor. “It was not controversial in committee; it won’t be controversial on the floor.”
However, the bill did have its opponents. Rep. Tom Workman, R-Chanhassen, warned against selling liquor near college-age students, though most others disagreed.
“The bill isn’t to sell liquor during the day to students as they walk down the Mall,” Spear said.
The Legislature has to finish its business by May 17, said House analyst John Williams, at which point Gov. Jesse Ventura must sign or veto it. Williams said once the bill hits the governor’s desk, it only takes about three days until he decides either way.
If the bill passes, Northrop Auditorium officials can begin selling liquor immediately.
The auditorium already contains refreshment dispensing facilities, so no extra funding will be required, Schatzlein said.