Public hearings held Sept. 30 and Oct. 6 recommended that St. Thomas’ St. Paul campus be allowed to hold a permanent liquor license.
The license would allow the university to sell its own alcoholic beverages at St. Thomas events instead of using an outside vendor or obtaining a one-day license.
The West Summit Neighborhood Advisory Committee, who works closely with St. Thomas on issues concerning the surrounding community, sees the license as “a reasonable request, but with certain conditions,” according to WSNAC Co-chair Scott Banas.
“Our advisory committee has always been in support of a license,” Doug Hennes, vice president of university and government relations, said. “The issue has been conditions on the license.”
The condition the university and WSNAC are debating about is the sale of alcohol at outdoor events on campus.
In the license, the university specified indoor and outdoor locations where it would like to sell alcohol. Indoor locations such as Murray-Herrick Campus Center, the new Anderson Student Center and the McNeely Hall Great Room would be used, along with outdoor locations like the Upper and Lower quads, John P. Monahan Plaza, McNeely Hall’s outdoor patio and other outdoor locations on South Campus.
Although WSNAC supports the university on obtaining the license, it opposes outdoor alcohol sales on campus for two main reasons.
Banas said the lesser reason was some concern that when people are outdoors drinking they might wander with the open alcohol into the neighborhood.
“The second and more substantive reason that we opposed outdoor service is that we think it sets a bad precedence,” he said. “We think it is wrong for an institution of higher education to be demonstrating or practicing the consumption of alcohol in an open area where students can plainly see adults consuming alcohol.”
St. Thomas sophomore Emily Brom agrees.
“I can see where the neighborhood is coming from because I come from a town that also has a college atmosphere and their college campus allows alcohol on campus,” Brom said. “The neighbors always get frustrated because there’s always a mess and (students) are always distracting at night.”
WSNAC is also worried that outdoor alcohol sales could potentially help increase alcohol use among the student body, causing issues in the neighborhood, Banas said.
“I don’t think it’s any secret that the use of alcohol by UST students has caused a great many issues and problems within the neighborhood,” he said. “ It has led to a lot of tension between the university and neighborhood organizations as well as individual neighbors.”
Banas said any service of alcohol must be confined by four walls, a ceiling and a floor.
At the public hearings, WSNAC asked the City of St. Paul to restrict the outdoor sale of alcohol on the St. Thomas campus to once a year and in one location: homecoming on the John P. Monahan Plaza.
“Now the concern is that (WSNAC) feels we’ve listed too many outdoor locations, and we don’t want any restrictions on how many times we can do this,” Hennes said. “The reason we don’t want restrictions? We don’t have any now.”
Hennes said the university would be able to eliminate the neighborhood’s concerns by careful control of the outdoor environments.
“If you’re going to have a beer you have to drink it, and you can’t take it out of there,” Hennes said. “It’s not like people are spilling out of there, taking beer out into the neighborhood, taking beer into the game.”
Sophomore Hilary Cotter also does not see outdoor alcohol sales as an issue.
“I don’t think that what the neighbors are worried about is an issue, like people wandering off or whatever,” Cotter said. “The only thing that I would be worried about as the school is people buying (alcohol) and giving it to underage people.”
Because of this dispute, a compromise was set by the public hearing officer, which said St. Thomas would be allowed to serve alcohol on any date it wanted. It was also decided that the university would be restricted to selling alcohol at three on-campus outdoor areas for the first year it holds the license. After the first year, the list of locations would grow.
“In our minds the university got 98 percent of what it wanted,” Banas said. “We asked the university to simply agree to the 2 percent. In terms of a compromise, we believe the university certainly got the better of all of the privileges it wanted regarding serving alcohol on campus.”
The St. Paul Legislation will vote on St Thomas’ proposed liquor license in November. If it is approved, the university is expected to have its license by January 2012.
Briggs LeSavage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.