City issues response to Alabama’s backtracking on alcohol sales

Coleman Coliseum

By WVUA 23 News Reporter Gracie Fusco

Tuscaloosa is biting back after University of Alabama Athletics Director Greg Byrne announced the school is putting alcohol sales inside Coleman Coliseum on hold after the city enacted a tax on ticket sales in large venues offering alcohol.

On Feb. 1, the Tuscaloosa City Council approved alcohol sales inside Coleman Coliseum during sports events. One week later, the council approved levying a fee on top of ticket sales for any event with at least 1,000 people that was also serving alcohol.

That fee would go toward the costs incurred by the city during such events, like additional police officers patrolling on game days or directing traffic. The fee is:

  • 1$ per ticket sold at any event with a 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 event with a capacity greater than 50,000 people

Byrne issued a statement on Twitter Feb. 14 announcing the university won’t move forward with alcohol sales at this time.

That caught city leaders off guard.

“I was taken back by it,” said Tuscaloosa City Council President Kip Tyner. “It really was a surprise to me because I didn’t expect the pushback.”

Tyner said he’s gotten a lot of calls regarding the move, but most of them were from people who said they had no problem paying a couple extra bucks for a ticket if it’s going toward their safety.

Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox issued a statement Tuesday, saying he was elected to look out for the interest of Tuscaloosa residents.

“The brunt of those costs are going to be on the taxpayers,” Maddox said. “We need to make certain those costs are reimbursed.”

Tyner said Tuscaloosa’s police and fire departments are stretched thin already, and UA events make that even worse.

“We have police officers who just a few weeks ago worked three graduations and then a 9 o’clock basketball game,” Tyner said. “We lose about $1.8 million a year in overtime for our police department, and that’s not including the paramedics and fire.”

Other SEC schools, Tyner said, reimburse their cities in some way for their assistance.

“We have not gotten a penny reimbursement for all the years I have been on the city council,” Tyner said.

Today, University of Alabama President Stuart Bell released the following statement:

The University of Alabama supports and appreciates the many public safety officers who work gameday, including UAPD, and City, County and State officials.

UA Athletics and our fans currently pay more in ticket and concession sales taxes than all but one SEC school. Those sales taxes go to support the City, County, and State, and their officers. The City, County, and State also receive significant sales taxes from restaurants, bars, retail outlets and hotels generated by our athletics and campus events.  We believe the success of our athletics programs and growth of our university have had a tremendous positive impact on our community.

The University was surprised by the City’s arbitrary service fee. Therefore, the planned new sales at our UA venues will remain on hold as we review the impact this fee could have on our University, Athletics, and fans.

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