Better with beer?

Penny Rich’s proposed ordinance change offers insight to the problem of underage drinking and binge drinking on campus and the ubiquity of alcohol-related offenses in the daily police blotter. Rich’s proposal, an item on the consent agenda for tonight’s Town Council meeting, recommends an ordinance to permit alcohol to be served at private events at the former Chapel Hill Museum building owned by the town. Her goal in allowing alcohol at the 523 E. Franklin St. building is “to maintain and improve community facilities and services.” You can’t have fun without a buzz.

The “improvement” seems marginal and weighted toward the users, not the town: Parties wanting to rent the facility for an event and serve alcohol would avoid the inconvenience of applying for a fixed-term permit as they do now, which presumably involves filling out a form and probably paying a modest fee. The move would be marginally detrimental to the town, which would lose the revenue from the permit fee and lose the ability to deny permission for an alcohol-related event it deems inappropriate.

Rich’s proposal is not without precedent. UNC made a similar move recently. Alcohol is allowed nowhere in Kenan Stadium, except the luxury suites now under construction. The rationale was that the luxury boxes would be used to woo donors, and evidently that can be done more easily if the potential donors are mildly inebriated. UNC’s policy exception is hypocritical, not to mention mildly insulting to the football team, insinuating it can’t provide excitement if fans are sober. Even if that were true, development officers could take the donors to the Carolina Club next door to the stadium to pre-load, as some students do at nearby fraternities and tailgaters do in the parking lots, getting their buzz on before they go to the game.

Fundraisers at the 523 E. Franklin building could do the same by taking potential donors to any restaurant along Franklin Street, pre-load at the bar, and walk – not drive – to the former museum building for the pitch. That would be a crumb to throw to restaurant owners riled over the threat of food trucks coming to town.

Rich offers no supporting argument as to why the former museum spot should be exempt from regulations imposed on other town property. The town has not decided how it will use the building, and until it does, it seems best to wait until its function has been agreed upon before deciding that whatever happens there would be better with beer.
– Nancy Oates

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6 Comments

  1. Would you like to offer an argument as to why the other town properties should not allow the consumption of alcohol?

  2. Duncan O'Malley

     /  May 23, 2011

    As a parent who must endure endless hours participating in local public school functions, I suggest serving beer and wine to make the experience more tolerable.

  3. Nancy Oates

     /  May 23, 2011

    George, I’m arguing that the town should keep the permit process in place. If my views are truly in the minority, the town should at least make money off its encouragement of alcohol use: who wouldn’t rent a holding tank at the jail for a 21st birthday party as long as it included a keg? And that fire pole would be so much fun after a few glasses of wine. For that matter, set up a bar in the back of the Town Council auditorium to make those 5-hour meetings seem to go by faster.

  4. The loss of revenue from the permit fees could be made up for with higher rental on the functions (ie, since alcohol is allowed there, presumably there’s more value in the space as rental). Or just get the town out of the landlord business — sell it as proposed years ago.

  5. Speaking of promoting vices, maybe the Town should install a lottery ticket kiosk at the Old Chapel Hill Museum? Or is that too bourgeois?

  6. Anita Badrock

     /  May 24, 2011

    all This is doing is making is a more streamlined process for someone who wants to rent the facility for a private function and serve alcohol. raise the rent a few bucks if you are worried about the loss of a permit fee. This is not a controversial item IMHO.

    by far the more important question is who bears the liability if something, god forbid, goes wrong and alcohol contributes to a problem there. I guess a release of liabiltiy would work if someeone signed it at the time of rental.

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