Daily Egyptian

Bill would allow SIU to sell alcohol during school events

Illinois+State+Capitol+in+Springfield.+%28TNS%29
Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (TNS)

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (TNS)

Illinois State Capitol in Springfield. (TNS)

By Bill Lukitsch, @Bill_LukitschDE

There’s buzz in Springfield about selling alcohol at the university.

New legislation introduced last week by Sen. Pat McGuire, D-Crest Hill, in the Illinois Senate would allow booze and beer to be sold during campus-sanctioned events, such as Saluki games and concerts.

The SIU Board of Trustees would have to approve all alcohol use if the bill passes. The board would have discretion to assess events on an individual basis and provide all guidelines for responsible sale and consumption on university property.

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“I suspect that the administration would have some fairly significant restrictions on the consumption of alcohol in any of our buildings,” said Kevin Bame, vice chancellor of administration and finance. “Those are details that need to be worked out if the legislation is passed, the governor signs it and the board of trustees agrees to it.”

Outside vendors could be hired or current employees would be trained to ensure state drinking and pouring laws are followed.

Chicago State University, Illinois State University, University of Illinois and Eastern Illinois University have in recent years been given legal leeway to sell alcoholic beverages during campus events deemed non-student related. Bame said he expects the administration would consult with other state universities to determine the most responsible practices if the legislation moves forward. 

“This piece of legislation is very similar to what other Illinois public universities already have under today’s statute,” said Bame, who acknowledged the additional cash is the biggest incentive for the university.

Tad Dunn, assistant director of athletics and director of campus operations, said drinking at these regulated events may even be safer for attendees.

“When venues have the ability to distribute and dispense alcohol for a cost, it controls a lot of your incidents from a crowd-management standpoint,” said Dunn, who worked at the University of Missouri, Kansas State University and the University of Nebraska before coming to SIU in 2015.

He said binge-drinking rates during games at those universities dropped after regulated alcohol use was introduced.

Selling booze may also reduce ticket prices for concerts on campus, making venues more attractive to touring artists and the general public, Dunn said.

Bame said it’s too early to say how much money the university could generate if this proposed legislation is signed into law.

“We just have to see if they approve it and what happens,” said Tommy Bell, director of athletics. “It could help us in some areas and it may also be a detriment.”

Bell said alcohol-related citations have reduced at campuses where alcohol is now offered in a controlled environment. But the drinking could pose problems for attendees seeking a more family-oriented experience. 

Still, he said he is open to the idea.

“You have to be,” Bell said. “We have to be thinking outside the box a little bit.”

Bill Lukitsch can be contacted at [email protected] or (618) 536-3329.

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