Nonprofits want new liquor license just for them
November 23, 2010
If not-for-profit groups could offer alcoholic beverages at more of their events they could likely sell more tickets, garner more donations and attract more members, say local experts.
Randy Barton, executive director of the Egyptian Theater, is heading up a lobbying effort to get a new class of liquor license approved by the Utah Legislature. He and others would like to see a special license available to not-for-profit groups that would allow them to sell or offer alcohol at events on an unlimited basis.
Currently, groups may apply for limited-use special event licenses for a single night or a festival. They are expensive to apply for and are limited in number.
Kimball Arts Center director Robin Marrouche said they are limited to about 12 per year.
The Egyptian has a standing license to offer beer at its shows, but not wine.
To offer wine on a regular basis, groups must abide by the same rules as restaurants or clubs, he said. That means they must make a majority of profits from food or not allow minors into events.
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These rules are just a bad fit for nonprofits, he said. The theater uses up its special events permits by April.
Marrouche said the center has to pick and choose which events are important enough to offer wine. That’s not fair to all the artists and exhibitors.
But fairness and inconvenience are not the motivations behind the bill Barton is helping to draft. If more alcohol was available, nonprofits could bring in more people and more money, they say.
"It’s a huge benefit to our patrons and to ourselves," Barton said. "It’s another wonderful source of income and enhances what we do. In our opinion, alcohol with entertainment is as important as alcohol with food or alcohol with sports. It’s that extra component of choice to give people the ability."
He doesn’t foresee the theater becoming a place to go for a drink; he just wants people to be able to have a beverage while they watch the show or mingle at intermission.
Marrouche said Kimball Arts Center events are much better attended if alcohol is available.
"We have open mic nights, gallery strolls, all our (exhibit) openings, and anything we can dream up in the future," she said. "The ability to have alcohol at events would drive interest and attendance to our events."
Wine at an art gallery is part of many people’s idea of an enjoyable evening.
"It will drive more people to Main St. to have an added benefit to an evening out," she added.
Filing for the 12 special event licenses every year is also a burden on her staff. When everyone is busy and working hard, the cumbersome application process distracts from performing the work of the center.
Sandra Morrison with the Park City Museum said they are also fully behind the effort.
The Museum is allowed to offer alcohol at its events now, but only to members.
The more people see the work of the museum, the better the chances they’ll join and support those efforts.
Special events are the perfect opportunity to invite new people to see what they do, she explained. Members also frequently ask to bring guests.
"It would increase our ability to increase participation within the community," Morrison summarized.
The museum is now able to host more traveling exhibits and hold more special events. There’s a wasted opportunity at these to attract new members and donors, she said.
If a new license status was approved, it would benefit numerous groups in town, Barton said, from those promoting music like Mountain Town Stages, to those discussing conservation and the environment like the Swaner EcoCenter.
Rep. Joel Briscoe representing the West Side of Summit County said he has an appointment to meet with Barton to discuss the idea.
"In the meantime, I understand how important liquor license availability is to the tourism industry as well as to economic development in Utah in general, and in Summit County/Park City in particular. The restrictions on 501C3 organizations are a new issue to me, which I am researching," he said.
Rep. Mel Brown on the East Side did not respond to messages. Neither did Summit County’s two senators.