Alcohol sales at Alabama sporting events in limbo

College balks after city enacts fee on ticket sales for events serving alcohol


If you were excited about the prospect of enjoying an alcoholic beverage at a University of Alabama sports event soon, too bad. The college is backing off its decision to allow alcohol sales in Coleman Coliseum after the Tuscaloosa City Council on Feb. 8 approved charging a service fee on a per-ticket basis for any event where alcohol is sold.

According to the approved ordinance, the fees are:

  • $1 per ticket sold at any event with the capacity of 1,000 to 19,999 people
  • $2 per ticket sold at any event with a capacity of 20,000 to 49,999 people
  • $3 per ticket sold at any even with the capacity of 50,000 people or greater

University of Alabama Athletic Director Greg Byrne made the announcement on Twitter, saying the capstone was suspending its alcohol-sale plans until further notice.

In his statement, Byrne said Alabama Athletics already pays a 10% sales tax on all ticket sales. Of that, 3% goes to the city. That’s an estimated $1.3 million straight into Tuscaloosa’s pocket. Concession sales bring in another $125,000 for the city.

Visitors spend their money at local hotels, restaurants, bars and stores, meaning even more tax dollars, Byrne said in the statement.

“While we greatly appreciate the partnership with and services provided by the city public safety personnel, our athletics events are primarily staffed by (the University of Alabama Police Department), our security resource officers and privately hired security,” the statement said. “For those reasons and more, we don’t think this is a reasonable approach that the city is attempting to take, and pending further review of this service fee, Alabama Athletics will not be moving forward with alcohol sales at this time.”

Tuscaloosa City Council President Kip Tyner said he was taken aback by the university’s announcement.

“It really was a surprise to me,” Tyner said. “I did not expect the pushback. In fact, all the calls I’ve received since his statement came out are mostly from Tide Pride folks who said that they had no problem paying $2 or $3 extra on a ticket.”

Tyner said Tuscaloosa looked at other college cities and towns before making the decision. The University of Alabama does not pay for services provided by Tuscaloosa law enforcement, Tyner said, and that costs the city hundreds of thousands of dollars a year in overtime.

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