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WCU opens up the door for wine and beer sales at performance venue

People attending productions at Western Carolina University’s John W. Bardo Fine and Performing Arts Center may soon have the chance to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer before a show or during intermission.

WCU’s board of trustees Friday unanimously approved a policy change allowing for the sale of beer and wine at the performance venue.

The advent of alcohol is now possible after Jackson County residents voted last year to allow its sale countywide. Previously, the county was dry outside town limits, so the university could not sell alcohol on its premises. The consumption of beer and wine were permitted at Ramsey Regional Activity Center, the University Outreach Center, Bardo arts center, A.K. Hinds University Center and Jordan-Phillips Fieldhouse, among a handful of other places, but at any events including alcohol, it was either free or BYOB.

Trustee George Little quickly read the change to the policy and said beer and wine could be offered as early as April.

As of now, there are no plans to allow alcohol sales anywhere else on WCU’s campus.

Paul Lormand, director of the fine arts center, viewed the addition of wine and beer at events as a possible positive.

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“It will create more of a little social atmosphere,” Lormand said.

However, he added, that he doesn’t feel strongly about the change either way. Lormand does not envision alcohol sales being a revenue generator in and of itself but would perhaps increase attendance by augmenting the experience of coming to a performance.

Although the board approved the new policy wording, alcohol will not necessarily become a regular offering at events.

Robert Kehrberg, dean of the College of Fine and Performing Arts, said they would be looking into it for some upcoming shows.

Details must be worked out for how alcohol would be sold. Most likely, an outside concession company would come in and keep any money earned.

The performance center currently doesn’t have a concession service, despite having concession counters.

In the past, a outside vendor sold concessions at the Bardo center, but it quit because it was not making enough money on the venture.

Instead, Lormand began buying beverages and light snacks, which are offered to the public during intermission in exchange for donations. Anyone wanting a candy bar or bottle of water simply puts whatever money they want to donate in a basket on the concession counter in exchange for their selection. Lormand loses money but said the value of the service outweighs the cost.

“We kind of just took it over,” Lormand said. “It was just a nice little service.”

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