Tampa Council rejects Bucs bid to serve booze at games

08/30/07 Mitch E. Perry
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In a surprising move, the Tampa City Council today rejected a proposal that would allowed hard liquor to be served throughout Raymond James Stadium for Tampa Bay Buc games and concerts.

Last month, the Council gave initial approve for the request. But at the second reading earlier this month, they held off until they could get more information on the impact of more alcohol might mean.

Booze has been sold at the stadium, but only for those fans in the elite club seating area and luxury suites. Beer and wine is served throughout the facility.

Josh Marshall is an attorney with Levy Premium Foodservice, the vendor who would split sales of the drinks with the Buccaneers. In order to appease reluctant Council members, Marshall said Levy was ready to compromise.

Marshall said the hard liquor would be served at 10 new kiosks spread throughout the stadium.

The vendor and the Bucs were putting out all the stops to get the Council’s approval.

Cindy Van Rensburg is the regional vice president of Levy’s, based in Houston. She emphasized on how serious her employees are trained on responsible alcohol service, Including the dishwashers.

Van Rensburg insisted that offering more alcoholic beverages to the 65,000 who attend Buccaneer games 10 times a year, wasn’t really about allowing them to get inebriated.

The vendor said they had strict monitoring controls in place to ensure that servers weren’t serving fans who were already drunk.

George Scott, director of operations at Raymond James Stadium, says his team monitors each bartender at the facility after every game to determine if someone has underserved or overserved.

Scott said there would be nine managers and two undercover police officers monitoring the kiosks to make sure the two-drink limit at one purchase was not violated.

But that didn’t mollify Councilman Joseph Cataneo.

In the interim between the last time the City Council addressed the issue, the Tampa Police Department produced a report on the level of alcohol-based incidents in or around the stadium after Buc games. It indicated that there were 92 alcohol related arrests last season, or roughly 11 or 12 a game.

One suggestion: allow the Bucs and the Levy corporation one year to go ahead and serve hard liquor throughout the stadium, and then measure whether alcohol related incidents increased.

A few members of the public urged the Council reject the wet zoning application.

Ellen Snelling of the Tampa Alcohol Coalition said that Hillsborough County already leads the state in number of DUI arrests. Snelling said the request for more hard liquor to be served at Buc games would only increase that dubious statistic.

Karen Hernandez says she an alcohol awareness instructor and a professional trained bartender. She said the impact of having more people who have consumed alcohol leaving Raymond James Stadium and getting into their cars involves more than just the city of Tampa’s safety.

City Councilman Charlie Miranda said he had nothing against the Levy Corp., though he did think some of the comments from their leaders were disingenous.

Then Miranda, a strong critic of the original 1996 Community Investment Tax which paved the way for the taxpayer funded construction of Raymond James Stadium, said he would not support the ordinance.

Councilman Thomas Scott said he himself doesn’t drink, but he urged his colleagues to approve the wet zoning application.

In the end, the Council voted 4-2 against the measure, with Tom Scott and Gwen Miller voting no. Council member Mary Mulhern was absent.

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