Proposal to allow alcohol at some PAC events discussed
By Kevin Boneske
ASHWAUBENON – The possibility of allowing alcohol at some Performing Arts Center non-school events was discussed Wednesday, July 10, by the Ashwaubenon school board.
The PAC, which is located on school property and funded by both the district and the Village of Ashwaubenon, has not served alcohol at events since the auditorium was completed in 2016.
Board members heard from PAC Director Kate Green, who proposed allowing alcohol to be served as part of the PAC’s patron experience.
“We’re talking about community events here,” Green said. “We’re not talking about school events or any student productions or anything like that.”
Green said the idea of selling alcohol at PAC events isn’t intended for providing another source of revenue.
“If that happens, that’s nice, but honestly we’re talking about people coming to the show and asking, ‘Hey, where can I get a glass of wine, could I get a beer…’” she said. “When you come to a show at the PAC, the lobby’s open one hour prior to (the) show. We don’t allow anything besides bottled water into the theater… If there’s an intermission in the performance, there might be something that’s sales going on during that intermission. So we’re talking about an hour and 20 minutes, an hour and 30 minutes of possible (alcohol) consumption time.”
Green said alcohol would not be kept on site with an outside party providing the beverage service, and no students would be at those events where alcohol is served.
As trial events for having wine and beer at the PAC this coming season, Green said two special event fundraisers for the facility have been proposed, one in the fall and another in the spring.
“They’d be treated kind of like a gala,” she said. “We were discussing at the community advisory board level here about applying through the village for a picnic license for those two events.”
When asked about other performing arts centers on school property where alcohol is served, Green said the ones that don’t are the ones where patrons have to go into the school to get to the performing arts center, while the ones that do have a separate entrance from the school, like the Ashwaubenon PAC.
“It’s a community entrance and not a school entrance,” she said.
When asked about how not being able to serve alcohol affects booking programs or shows, Green said the issue has come up with two specific instances where she couldn’t book an act.
“The reason why it will come up, if you’re booking a national act or something, why it will come in is part of their deal is they want a percentage of bar sales, or they want that environment where… it’s a comedian or something like that,” she said.
Green said community rentals have been lost from people interested in using the facility, but who decide not to because the PAC does not allow wine or beer.
Mark Williams, an Ashwaubenon village trustee who is also on the PAC board, said he has been against serving alcohol at the PAC, but after attending different events around the state and seeing other performing arts centers operate, he hasn’t seen problems with the practice.
“After seeing some of this stuff, I’m still opposed to having a full-time liquor license at the PAC, period,” Williams said. “But I’m willing to try it as a temporary thing and (with) a picnic license.”
By having a fundraising event at the PAC where beer and wine would be served, Williams said that could raise money for the facility instead of having to use taxpayer dollars for items the PAC needs.
“We could hold this event at the community center without any problem, but then we can’t showcase this facility to the rest of the people that are coming there,” he said.
Green said one of the most common comments/complaints she receives is people aren’t able to get a glass of wine at the PAC before a show.
“We’re trying to offer those elements, and if we can do it on a trial basis in this instance and see how it goes, I feel like we’d be able to make a better decision moving forward on is it something we continue, is it something we add on, or is it just something we drop,” she said.
School administrators and board members expressed their concerns with allowing alcohol on school property.
Superintendent Kurt Weyers praised the work of Green and others with the PAC, but said he struggles philosophically with the idea of allowing alcoholic beverages.
“It’s on school property, it’s on our campus, we really feel there needs to be a separation between the two,” Weyers said. “But we’re open to discussion on it.”
Business Director Keith Lucius said he didn’t favor allowing alcohol to be served at the PAC, because that would open up the district to others wanting to do that elsewhere on school property.
“If you try it for one, now you’ve got to try it for anyone,” Lucius said. “Even if this doesn’t work, you crack that door open, and you set that precedent, and it becomes almost impossible to say ‘no’ to anybody else who comes.”
From a risk management standpoint, Lucius said allowing alcohol on school property would also subject the district to additional liability.
Andrea Pasqualucci, a school social worker, said she appreciates the work of the PAC board, but found the proposal to serve alcohol at the PAC not in the best interest of the district’s children, given the problems they can face with alcohol and other drugs.
“This is just someplace the school district doesn’t want to go,” she said.
Pasqualucci said the school board should “look out what’s best for kids and, in all due respect, not what’s best for the village.”
Board Treasurer Michelle Garrigan said the underlying issue is the PAC is on school grounds.
“You just can’t get away from it,” she said.
The issue was on the board’s agenda for discussion only.
After Green said she would be providing the board with additional information related to other performing arts centers serving alcohol, the board agreed to have the matter placed on next month’s agenda for possible action.