Alabama Alcohol Sales on Hold Amid New Tuscaloosa Policy

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Following a new policy set by the city of Tuscaloosa, the University of Alabama’s athletic department has decided to hold off on plans to sell alcohol at Coleman Coliseum.

As reported by CBS affiliate WIAT, Alabama athletic director Greg Byrne said in a statement Monday that the athletics department would not be moving forward with alcohol sales “at this time” due to a recent service policy that was implemented by the Tuscaloosa City Council. The policy, which was voted on during a meeting Feb. 8, would put a fee increase in place for ticketed events featuring alcohol sales and at least 1,000 people in attendance.

Earlier this month, the council approved alcohol sales at Coleman Coliseum. Alabama now has plans in place to build a $183 million arena that would seat over 10,000 people.

The new policy would mean ticket price increases of $1 per ticket for events with crowds between 1,000 and 19,999 people, $2 per ticket for events with capacities between 20,000 and 49,999, and $3 for events with more than 50,000 people, WIAT reported.

Alabama drew 10,353 fans to its men's basketball game against Arkansas this past weekend at the 14,474-seat Coleman Coliseum.

“It is very unfortunate that the City of Tuscaloosa’s plan would unreasonably target Alabama Athletics and our fans with a service fee on all tickets where alcohol is sold, even tickets sold to children,” Byrne wrote in the statement. “There are so many positive impacts our athletics events — and the University as a whole — have provided that are being discounted, including the extraordinary economic and tax benefits to the city.”

Byrne pointed out that UA currently pays 10 percent sales tax on all ticket sales, 3 percent of which goes directly to Tuscaloosa, representing approximately $1.3 million the city has collected this fiscal year alone. In addition, the university’s concessionaire, Levy Premium Foodservice LLC, pays the city 10 percent sales tax on concessions revenue from all athletics events, generating approximately $125,000 annually, according to Byrne.

“And while we greatly appreciate the partnership with and services provided by the City public safety personnel, our athletics events are primarily staffed by UAPD, our security resource officers and privately-held security,” he said. “For these reasons and more, we don’t think this is a reasonable approach that the City is attempting to take, and pending further review of this service fee, Alabama Athletics will not be moving forward with alcohol sales at this time.”

Byrne's statement caught Tuscaloosa City Council president Kip Tyner by surprise.

“I think the city has been incredible partners with the University of Alabama for many years," Tyner said, as reported by WIAT. "Last year we spent almost $1.75 million in overtime for our police department to not only work the athletics events, but graduations too with no reimbursement.

“I think we should have some discussion, but apparently, he [Byrne] doesn’t think he needs to do any of that. But we’ve been great partners with UA, and I am sure we will continue to be great partners, and as they say, 'This too shall pass.' ”

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