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KU piloting sale of liquor by the drink at certain on-campus events, eyeing possibility of more in future

In this file photo from Dec. 6 2015, the Lied Center hosts the annual KU School of Music Holiday Vespers concert.

In this file photo from Dec. 6 2015, the Lied Center hosts the annual KU School of Music Holiday Vespers concert.

April 3, 2017

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The University of Kansas is now allowing the sale of alcoholic beverages by the drink at certain on-campus performances, a practice that may expand in the future as KU looks to make social events competitive with off-campus experiences.

Beer and wine are now being sold by the drink at Lied Center and Murphy Hall performances, on a trial basis that appears likely to continue.

KU Memorial Unions, the exclusive alcoholic service provider on campus, has discussed the possibility of adding similar drink service for events at the Spencer Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum and the Commons at Spooner Hall, Unions director David Mucci said.

Also, as Unions leaders said when Jaybowl closed in May 2015, Mucci said they’d like to eventually put a pub in that location — Level 1, which opens onto Mississippi Street.

“We’re certainly planning for that eventuality,” Mucci said. “My intention is, as policy cautiously goes forward here, we’ll find the right spot.”

He said student union trends are going that direction, and at Kansas State University a similar operation is planned as part of union renovations there.

“Some of our peers are ahead of us in this,” Mucci said.

Other than the trial sales at Lied and Murphy, which began in fall 2016, KU policy prohibits the sale of alcoholic beverages to individuals on campus.

KU policy does allow alcohol service at specially approved university events, and alcohol consumption at certain events and locations — such as tailgating around Memorial Stadium for football games.

KU’s alcohol policy was relaxed a little more to specially accommodate the DeBruce Center, which opened in 2016. There, alcohol service is allowed at approved "university, state, or community related events," according to the policy. External organizations wishing to serve alcohol at events there must have a university sponsor, the policy says.

Mucci said alcoholic beverage sales such as those at Lied and Murphy aren’t envisioned as a significant revenue source, rather as a way to enhance experiences for campus-goers.

For example, he said, attendees at the Lied are accustomed to being able to have a glass of wine at arts events of a similar caliber at off-campus venues.

“At this point it’s pretty much a break even operation,” Mucci said. “We’re happy to do that because it does, I think, enhance the performance experience...making people want to come to KU, engaging them at KU.”

As of January 1, alcohol sales at 13 Lied events brought in about $4,300 in revenue, Mucci said. Sales at 11 events at Murphy Hall brought in about $800.

He said no problem behavior or underage drinking had been observed, and that patron response has been appreciative.

“Particularly given those audiences and those venues, you just wouldn’t expect an issue,” he said.

The trial policy ends June 30, Mucci said. No formal proposal to extend it has been made yet, he said, but it’s more likely the Lied and Unions would seek a temporary extension and think about pursuing a permanent policy change after a new, yet-to-be-hired chancellor takes office this summer.

The Lied announced last fall that it was expanding its beverage service to include beer and wine, in addition to soda, water, coffee and cookies.

Beer and wine may be purchased — with credit card only — up to an hour prior to a performance and during intermission. The policy does not apply to all performances at the Lied Center, only to Lied Center Series events in the Auditorium.

Contact KU and higher ed reporter Sara Shepherd
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