No Comment?

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An email had been sent to the Tuscaloosa City Clerk regarding the public hearing on alcohol sales at Coleman Coliseum at the University of Alabama.

On the city’s website it had been stated that “there’s no need to attend in-person. Submit a written comment by emailing cityclerk@tuscaloosa.com. Written comments will be distributed to the Councilmembers for the next scheduled meeting and kept on record.”

This was the content of the email that had been sent to the clerk on the week prior to the hearing:

Will the city be legally liable for approving the license for Levy Premium Foodservice LP to serve alcohol at the Coliseum should a minor be served and, as a consequence, suffer bodily harm.

There is no liability insurance that covers injuries that stem from illegal service, such as selling or providing alcohol to minors.

Won’t the University or licensing body (the Council) share liability with the vendor, who is uninsured for this?

A 2008 WebMD article addressed problems with underaged drinkers at professional sports venues. “Underage or drunken fans are often able to buy alcohol at sports stadiums, especially if it’s purchased from a vendor in the stands, according to a study. The study, by University of Minnesota researchers, shows that underage fans are able to purchase a drink 18% of the time and intoxicated fans are able to purchase a drink 74% of the time at pro sports stadiums. Both groups are 2.9 times more likely to succeed in their purchase attempts if they buy from someone in the stands as opposed to going to a concession booth.”

Having an area where beer is sold and consumed apart from the seats might make it more likely that alcohol not be served to minors.

But surely the city is aware of the problem with hard to detect fake IDs? Alcohol may still be sold to minors even when IDs are checked.

The email’s subject was Comment for Tuesday’s Public Hearing on alcohol sales at Coleman Coliseum

One Council member had said that he not been aware of the email, although during the hearing Council President Kip Tyner had said, “There have been a lot of comments that I know we’ve all received–some for and some against…”

The City Clerk had responded to an email that had been sent to her inquiring why the comment in the email had not been been read at the hearing:

Your previous email did not request for your comment to be read into the record for the alcohol sales at Coleman Coliseum. However, I apologize for any miscommunication and will confirm with you on future matters to ensure your concerns are addressed.

In the past year public comments that had been sent by email had been routinely read into the record.

During the hearing, only Herbert Tesh, the representative for Levy Premium Foodservice, had spoken to the Council. Tyner had then addressed the Council members. He had said, “Any further discussion before we vote?” A vote had then been taken, with only one Council member not voting in favor of the licensing. Then City Attorney Scott Holmes had reminded Tyner that the approval of the license was on the agenda as a public hearing. Tyner then had said, “Anybody here want to speak for or against the alcohol application?” No one present at the hearing had responded. The comment that had been emailed to the clerk had not been read. Apparently a re-vote had not been required, although Tyner had jumped the gun earlier by not asking for comments before the vote had been taken. WBRC/6‘s Bryan Henry had written, “We checked with city council records, and […] no one has signed up to speak in favor or against the application.”

One of the answers that Tesh had been asked concerned the potential for illegal sales to minors. He had said that an issue with the women from the Alabama Beverage Control Board, who he had just spoken with, would be the purchase of alcohol for minors by legally aged patrons. He had said that IDs for purchasers would be checked. “It just makes sense, it’s easier and it takes the guess work out of it. It’s going to make a few people upset, but at the end of the day if you want to have a beer, you’re just going to have to show your ID.” Tesh did say that “hawking” beer at football games might be a possibility in the future. Beer, wine and seltzers at Coleman Coliseum would be only be sold at concession stands or kiosks.

Although it had not been mentioned during the public hearing, concern over policing the sales of alcohol during sports events at the coliseum and at other large events would lead to the consideration by the Council of adding public safety fees to ticket sales at large events where alcohol was being sold.

CBS/42‘s Phil Pinarski and Jen Cardone had written that Council President Tyner had said that the money from ticket sales would be discussed by the Council the following week. “If we can do it to strengthen our men and women in blue and all the men and women in the fire department then I think it’s a good thing.”

The resolution had that said that the police and fire departments had a “finite number of personnel” and that at large events where alcohol would be served there would be an increased demand for “public safety resources.”

Just how city employees would have been able to contribute to public safety at such events had not been delineated. Would they assist in checking IDs or by following alcohol purchasers to their seats to insure that only the buyers of the beverages would consume them? Would incidents of disorderly conduct by inebriated fans be a consequence of alcohol use? Would there be an increased fire hazard? Would the University’s police force require such assistance?

There had been a considerable amount of opposition in T-Town to alcohol sales at sport events at the University. It had been expressed on social media posts. However no comments had been allowed to be read into the record at the Council meeting. Perhaps they would have been “kept on record”?

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