The Colonial Arts Center's logo is now on the front of the facility's marquee. / Photo by Monica Zalaznik

City council votes to allow third-party vendor to serve alcohol at special events in Colonial Arts Center

BUCKHANNON – The Colonial Arts Center Board will convene a special meeting Thursday to determine exactly how and when alcohol will be served on its premises ahead of two upcoming October events.

The CAC Board will meet at 5 p.m. Aug. 31 at City Hall to discuss the “status of alcohol in the space and timeline,” according to the agenda.

Thursday’s meeting is a continuation of a lengthy discussion that occurred at Buckhannon City Council’s Aug. 17 meeting when council ultimately OK’ed allowing a third-party vendor to serve beer and wine in the CAC on a trial basis. That discussion got underway when CAC Board President John Waltz appeared before council to seek permission for alcoholic beverages to be served by a third-party vendor in the CAC, a city-owned facility.

“We’re at a point now in our programming where we have a couple of events on the horizon, and we would like to ask council to think about the ability for us to perhaps pilot a couple of events that might serve alcohol at the Colonial Arts Center,” Waltz said.

The two events Waltz listed are the Oct. 13-14 “Death by Dessert”: A Buckhannon Community Theatre Experience co-sponsored with the Buckhannon-Upshur Chamber of Commerce. The second is the Colonial Arts Center’s long-anticipated official grand opening event slated for Saturday, Oct. 21.

“We believe after careful study, Anne’s work (CAC manager Anne Wilson), and the way that events have been executed in the building that it’s a good building for it,” Waltz said. “There’s a clear entrance; there’s a clear lobby; a door in and out, and easy for us to control,” Waltz said. “The thought of the board has generally been that a third party [alcohol vendor] is what makes the most sense.”

CAC Board member Keith Buchanan recently contacted other similar facilities in the region about how alcohol is handled.

“It ranges – you have places like the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center that have their own liquor license, and we don’t think that’s for us,” Waltz reported. “We don’t think this would be a regular occurrence at the Colonial Arts Center, but if you take the event that the Chamber and the Buckhannon Community Theatre’s partnering on, we believe with the ability to serve beer and wine even in a very limited way, that event has the chance to generate about $10,000 in revenue. That’s pretty significant for us.”

“To get to the price point we need [for tickets], we’d like to be able to serve beer and wine, and also it’s the thought of the board that beer and wine is really about the limit of what we think would be reasonable or expected in a space like that,” Waltz added.

The CAC building is owned by and operates now as a city-funded entity. Selling alcohol at special events would enable the facility to compete with other similar area venues, enabling the arts center to become financially self-sustaining eventually, he said.

“The longer-term vision is that it does start to sustain itself, and we’d like to be able to charge a certain amount for tickets and bring acts into that space, and we do think being able to serve beer and wine through a third party will make that possible,” he said. “We don’t want to lose out on acts and opportunities that would go to a different space to be able to do that if that’s part of their interest.”

Councilman David McCauley asked if it would be possible to serve beer and wine for events other than shows.

“John, wouldn’t there be an opportunity, if there was a big opening at the [M.I.B.] art gallery, for someone to have a glass of champagne or Chardonnay or whatever we serve?” McCauley asked.

Waltz said yes. He added that beer and wine could be served at smaller-scale events, such as parties or weddings, citing that the CAC’s telescopic seating can be retracted to create a flat floor that would facilitate such events.

“Our thought would be that if there’s a lack of certainty, maybe think about piloting a couple of things and see how one or two goes,” Waltz said. “If there’s questions about how this would be executed, we think that could be a sensible way to begin.”

Councilman CJ Rylands asked for verification that only beer and wine would be served.

“I don’t think there’s any need for hard alcohol at a reception or a show,” he said, and Waltz replied the board isn’t interested in serving hard liquor.

Rylands also asked for clarification about what entity would be licensed to serve the alcohol and whose responsibility it would be to carry liability insurance.

Mayor Robbie Skinner said the third-party vendor would be required to list the city as an additional insured party on their certificates of insurance for both general liability and liquor liability.

“We would have to verify that they not only had liability insurance but liquor liability insurance, and just for clarification, liquor liability is for alcohol – that’s what it’s called even though it’s just beer and wine,” Skinner said.

The mayor said the third party would be responsible for obtaining the liquor license, providing both types of insurance and orchestrating everything.

“They would bring it in, they would take it out,” Skinner said. “We would not be storing anything in the theater. All we’re doing is creating the environment. We are not signing up for a liquor license. We are not signing up for liquor liability. We are not signing up to carry the alcohol and store it in the facility. This is just to create the environment conducive to allow it to happen.”

Councilman Jack Reger made a motion for the city to allow the sale of alcohol by a third-party vendor on a pilot program basis in the CAC with the condition that council re-evaluate the issue following the October events. Councilwoman Pam Bucklew seconded the motion, which council passed unanimously.

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