UT days away from selling alcohol, other Knoxville venue says beer sales not an added problem

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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – With alcohol sales going live at a UT venue this weekend, a look at how another local large venue handles its beer offers some insight.

How will alcohol impact events at Thompson-Boling Arena? Will it impact them at all? You might have to buy a ticket to the upcoming Alice Cooper concert to find out, or you could just think about an Ice Bears game up the road at the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum.

UT to sell beer at Thompson-Boling Arena

Following a change in state law and approval by the Knoxville Beer Board, the University of Tennessee at Knoxville will roll out alcohol sales Saturday at a Alice Cooper concert, in what they’re calling a “pilot” launch.

RELATED: UT to sell beer at upcoming Alice Cooper concert in Thompson-Boling Arena

In a statement Tuesday, a university spokesperson wrote trained staff and licensed servers would be selling alcohol at concession stands and kiosks at Thompson-Boling Arena during the concert.

The statement also said law enforcement and event staff will be on the lookout for potential alcohol-related incidents in all areas of the arena.

A text-message system will be in place for concertgoers to request assistance or report an inappropriate situation.

They’re also implementing several rules:

  • Clear bag policy will still be in place
  • Only sale two drinks per transaction
  • All beverages will be poured into clear cups
  • Alcohol sales end 30 minutes before the end of the show
  • Everyone, regardless of age will be carded.

“Individuals consuming alcohol must be able to produce a valid photo ID at all times, as arena personnel may ask to see an ID at locations away from the original point of sale. Individuals will be ejected from the arena and are subject to prosecution if they pass off alcohol to a minor, attempt to use a fake ID, or are intoxicated.”

How the Coliseum handles its beer, wine

Mitch List, Assistant General Manager for the Knoxville Civic Auditorium and Coliseum, said he hasn’t really seen any issues related to alcohol sales.

“Occasionally, you can have a little over consumption. You can have that anywhere. But, our staff is very well trained to identify that and solve the problem. Overall, it’s been a very smooth process.”

They’re used to attracting big crowds and big names.

They’re also used to selling alcohol at hockey games, concerts and touring shows.

There have two venues: A 2,500-seat auditorium for the symphony pop series and about 35 concerts and traveling shows each year. The Coliseum, home to the Knoxville Ice Bears, holds a little more than 5,000 people for 28 regular season games and playoffs.

On a good night, with a concert and hockey game going on at the same time, List says they’ll average at least 6,000 people.

But, he said, it isn’t unusual for them to sell out. List said he works with their vendor, Spectra, before each event to talk about alcohol consumption and to make a plan for each show.

“Obviously you’ve got different crowds coming for different events. So, the crowd that would come for a comedy show might be different crowd from a rock show.”

He said they use best practices in the industry for things like what time to stop sales, which for hockey games, he said, is the end of the secnd period and for concerts it’s between 30 and 45 minutes before an act goes off stage.

At KCAC, everyone is carded, he said, and gets a wrist band so they don’t have to repeatedly present their ID.

Their vendor’s servers are all TABC certified, and both their staff and Coliseum staff go through annual training.

Ultimately, he doesn’t see alcohol as an added problem for his team, but rather an added amenity for customers.

“It’s something we work very hard at and monitor very closely, but we’ve really got the process down to a science and we haven’t had an issues there,” he said.

Logistics are key

The food services vendor for UT is Aramark.

The university’s statement also said police and event staff will be looking for alcohol-related incidents Saturday around the arena.

UT officials are still looking at logistics of implementing alcohol sales at sporting events.

New UT Chancellor Donde Plowman formed an alcohol policy working group in July, aimed to look into the matter, with safety and security top of mind.

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