The Nebraska Board of Regents voted on Feb. 11 to lift a 23-year alcohol ban. The policy since 1999 stated that it was unlawful for any person to consume alcoholic beverages at any athletic event conducted on university property.
Although University of Nebraska-Lincoln Chancellor Ronnie Green already decided that alcohol will not be served at Husker football games in the fall, it is unclear what liabilities may be associated with any future decisions about drinking during athletic events. a new question arises. What liabilities will potential on campus alcohol mean for Nebrasaka’s biggest university?
Taylor Jarvis, the internal vice president of the Association of Students of the University of Nebraska, said allowing alcohol to be served inside Memorial Stadium will allow for a safer game day experience.
“We’re excited in terms of increased opportunities for safety,” Jarvis said. “I think that we can practice more safe drinking habits and move towards a better culture around drinking on game days.”
Jarvis said she believes that allowing alcohol at the events will cut down on the number of students binge drinking before attending an athletic event or trying to sneak alcohol into an event.
“Students will feel less of a need to drink mass amounts before the event so that they can maintain a ‘buzz’ throughout the entire athletic event,” Jarvis said. “I think we’ll be able to better space out drinking and have just more safe drinking practices overall.”
Jarvis said she doesn’t think it will contribute to underage drinking, as the city of Lincoln, in general, is strict on monitoring identification.
“Based upon Lincoln bar culture, I think that would be happening anyway,” Jarvis said. “Although I’m not sure in a stadium of 90,000 people outdoors, there’s a ton that can be done in terms of someone purchasing a drink and giving it to an underage friend beyond perhaps limiting the number of drinks that someone of age can buy at one time.”
Lincoln Police Department Investigator Scott Parker said there are state laws that concentrate on not over-serving, and a business or organization’s liquor license can be in jeopardy if they are caught over-serving somebody.
“There’s a lot of safeguards in place through state law,” Parker said.
Parker said LPD has always maintained a presence at Husker sporting events and only time will tell how the alcohol ban lift will affect game day drinking.
“Is it going to change the makeup in terms of how the Lincoln Police Department approaches those things? Maybe? Maybe not. I think it’s just something we have to wait and see,” Parker said.
If Husker events start to serve alcohol going forward, they will have to be aware of keeping alcoholic beverages inside the confines of the events, Parker said. For example, the security at Husker football games will have to pay attention to ensure that no one takes their drink outside the stadium during halftime, or at any point during the game, Parker said.
That is an offense that, again, could risk the liquor license of either the university or its vendors, depending on who holds the license.
Melissa Lee, chief communications officer for the University of Nebraska system, said there is currently no proposal for alcohol at any athletic events. The policy states that anything the university does must follow the Liquor Control Act.
Lee said the reasoning for the ban lift came down to the need for a universal policy.
“The board had a long-standing ban on alcohol at sporting events, but quite candidly, that policy had essentially become irrelevant,” Lee said.
For example, fans could already drink at University of Nebraska Omaha hockey games at Baxter Arena and on Innovation Campus at UNL prior to the ban lift.
“The policy has been applied so inconsistently. It just didn’t make sense to have that policy on the books anymore,” Lee said.
Ultimately, the ban was lifted to keep alcohol policies consistent across the entire Nebraska system.
“The first step is to clean up our policies themselves,” Lee said. “This doesn’t mean any other steps are going to be taken. It is just kind of a first step that creates the policy and creates that opportunity, if and when we do decide to go down that path.”