Leslie Turk

Beer sales a go at Cajun Field

by Leslie Turk

The 11th hour decision to cancel the planned beer sales at Cajun Field last week was a minor disappointment far overshadowed by the record-breaking fan support and home opening win against Southern University.

The permit issue now resolved, beer will be sold at tomorrow’s game against Kansas State, the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control confirmed in a press release yesterday.

It was a last-minute call from ATC about the legality of the permit that prompted Sodexo Sports & Leisure, which runs the concessions at Cajun Field, to voluntarily back off the decision to sell beer last week. And as it turns out, Sodexo does need a special events permit to sell beer at each home game; the company has already purchased all of the permits for the remainder of the season.

“The authority to sell alcohol and its licensing structure is based on qualifying a location and also qualifying the people who are actually going to sell the alcohol,” ATC Commissioner Murphy Painter says in the press release. “Although this may sound like a simple process, I assure you sometimes it becomes very complicated.”

UL President Joe Savoie says ATC wanted to ensure that every law was followed in what will set a precedent for beer sales to the general public in state colleges' football stadiums. He says it's likely the process will be followed for all future situations involving public universities. “I would imagine there are a lot of people interested in the issue,” Savoie says.

The decision to sell beer at Cajun Field, which was more heavily covered by Baton Rouge media than Lafayette’s, prompted calls late last week to ATC from various groups and individuals. Sources close to the controversy say one interested party was LSU — likely because of the potential issue of beer sales at the major country music festival scheduled for Tiger Stadium over the Memorial Day weekend next year.

Sodexo spokeswoman Monica Zimmer says she does not know if LSU inquired and referred the question to Painter, who could not be reached for comment this morning.

“I don’t think that anybody was trying to stop it,” Savoie says. “I just think [Painter] realized the significance of it.”

Painter says because Cajun Field was not licensed, the question became whether a caterer’s license was a lawful and valid way to allow alcohol sales at the stadium. He says the licensing structure also determines other factors related to alcohol control such as relationships between suppliers and retailers. “Two years ago the laws were changed to strengthen the control over the relationships between suppliers and outlets by never allowing a caterer’s permit to be used in lieu of the need for a special event permit.”