Curry County Manager Lance Pyle said he will recommend during today’s county commission meeting that commissioners allow the sale of beer and wine at the Special Events Center.
Pyle said he will present a proposal to commissioners that will allow beer and wine sales at the discretion of people booking events for the SEC.
The proposal differs from a previous one in which the county would have sought a liquor license for the fairgrounds and events center, Pyle said.
That measure was voted down 3-2 in September 2007.
The new proposal does not include sales at the fairgrounds, Pyle said.
“We can acquire more events, more sponsorships and reduce the losses to the taxpayer if beer and wine are available at the Special Events Center,” he said.
“My job is to see that the facility is utilized to the fullest and that we attract events and participants from all over the area supporting our local economy.”
The special events center will lose more than $200,000 a year with alcohol sales and $400,000 or more a year during the first four years without alcohol sales and sponsorships, according to an industry estimate.
Under Pyle’s proposal, the county would contract with a vendor to sell beer and wine.
“In the past few weeks when we have been visiting with individuals that are requesting to rent the facility, the question of beer and wine seems to come up,” Pyle said, explaining several people inquiring about scheduling events at the events center have said they will not book the facility if they cannot serve beer and wine at their events.
The issue was brought up again because at today’s meeting, commissioners will vote on proposed fees and booking contracts for the facility, Pyle said.
Commissioner Tim Ashley said he voted against the sale of alcohol the first time and nothing has really changed for him, though he said he won’t know the specifics of the proposal until the meeting.
“I think it shows a lot of hypocrisy. We spend thousands a year on teen court, DWIs and (other programs) to deter alcohol and substance abuse. I think it’s just hypocritical to turn (around and sell it).”
Ashley said he believes there is money available to offset lost revenue from the events center without alcohol sales.
A few years ago, Ashley said the commission passed a gross receipts tax issue to offset the cost of housing inmates out of state with the understanding that once the inmate housing costs were resolved, those gross receipts funds would be redirected to the events center.
Commissioners Robert Sandoval and Pete Hulder voted in favor of alcohol sales previously and have expressed interest in seeing the issue revisited.
Commission Chairman Albin Smith declined to discuss what his vote would be on the issue.
“We'll see what shakes out. I've listened to an awful lot of people since the last time we voted,” he said.
Commissioner Frank Blackburn could not be reached for comment.