Once again, owners of The Oread hotel are asking for concessions from the city. This time they want to be allowed to serve alcoholic beverages outside the hotel and use public right-of-way along Oread Avenue for a series of tailgating parties before Kansas University home football games.
After Lawrence city commissioners asked for more details about how the plan would affect traffic flow and pedestrian safety in the area, the hotel owners have modified their plan, which is back on the City Commission’s agenda for tonight’s meeting.
The latest plan calls for 12th Street and Oread Avenue to remain open during the tailgating events, but asks to expand the party area into parallel parking spaces on the west side of Oread from 12th Street to the entrance to the KU parking garage. Alcohol wouldn’t be served in the Oread Avenue right-of-way, but the hotel is asking that its liquor license be temporarily expanded to include the public right-of-way adjacent to the hotel.
Temporary fencing would be installed to separate the pedestrian areas from the traffic areas, but people crossing back and forth from The Oread to other party areas continues to be a safety issue.
They also want a special permit for a “Fall Sports Kick-Off Event” on Aug. 27 that would close 12th Street in front of the hotel and Oread Avenue from 12th to 13th Street.
It is interesting that the hotel wants to stage the large tailgating events, at which alcohol would be served, when there is so much concern about alcohol consumption among students. The hotel already caters to students in its many bars, but the game-day events seem likely to contribute to a problem that university officials have said is one of their greatest challenges.
The proposal before city commissioners has plans to handle traffic and drinking but enforcing those limits and protecting the safety of pedestrian areas will be a challenge. Do hotel officials honestly believe the ages of all students consuming alcohol will be checked and that traffic will not be impeded during these events?
It is understandable that hotel operators would want to stage events at which they could profit from serving more food and drinks, but city and law enforcement officials should show some leadership and say “no” to this request.
University officials have played a significant behind-the-scenes role in The Oread development. They have worked to schedule as many university-related events as possible at the hotel, but, at the same time, they should be concerned about actions and policies that make it easier to encourage student drinking.
The Oread is a nice addition to the city, but asking for waivers from the city seems to be standard operating procedure for the business, from the height of the building to the communication towers on top of the structure to events with expanded outdoor drinking areas.