Lawmakers pass stadium alcohol provision

The measure requires the University to offer alcohol in one-third of general seating.

James Nord

Lawmakers passed a bill Saturday softening restrictions on alcohol sales in licensed University of Minnesota properties, including TCF Bank Stadium. The measure, passed as an amendment to an existing bill, would require the University to sell alcohol in one-third of the general seating of a stadium or arena in order to offer it in premium seating areas. This marks a softening of the all-or-nothing sales law imposed by the Legislature last year, which required the University to sell liquor in general seating if they were to provide it in suites. The Board of Regents voted last June to ban all alcohol sales in lieu of providing it in general seating. Rep. Joe Atkins, who was part of the billâÄôs House-Senate conference committee, said the measure is meant to âÄúextend an olive branch to the UniversityâÄù and to help repair relations with the House. A prior proposal would have given the University sole discretion over sales in the two arenas without the one-third general seating clause. The amendment, presented by Rep. Phyllis Kahn, DFL-Minneapolis, was defeated 111-18 on May 3. The new amendmentâÄôs language garnered support from the previously oppositional House, where the final version passed 124-4. Part of the provision requires 75 percent of the net revenue generated by alcohol sales to be put toward a scholarship fund for students whose families earns less than $100,000 yearly. The measure applies to Mariucci Arena and Williams Arena, as well as the stadium. Under current restrictions the University loses about $1.3 million annually from lack of alcohol sales and decreased interest in premium seating, Sen. Sandra Pappas, DFL-St. Paul, said. That figure is likely a conservative estimate, said Jim Erickson, lobbyist for Friends of Gopher sports, a group who worked toward a complete reversal of the policy. That group plans to return next session and lobby for the full reversal, Erickson said. Pappas said the University is preparing to discount suite seating by about 20 percent as a result of lackluster sales stemming from the previous legislation. The measure is the first success for the legislators who have been working to return control of alcohol sales to the University. Kahn told the House floor on May 3 it is necessary to allow the University access to as much funding as possible after the LegislatureâÄôs considerable budget cuts. The University is facing a roughly $132 million budget deficit. The University has not offered an opinion through any of the legislation, but in an e-mail University spokesman Dan Wolter said Friday any proposal would be taken into consideration. âÄúThe president and chair of the Board of Regents have said they considered [alcohol sales] a closed matter,âÄù Wolter wrote in the e-mail. The University will take the new legislation into consideration, he wrote.