Bill may give Board control over alcohol

By Sarah Small

Two identical bills are currently circulating the Illinois General Assembly that would give the University of Illinois Board of Trustees the authority to approve the sale and serving of alcoholic beverages at specific University venues.

Currently, state law prohibits the serving of alcohol in any state-owned building, including University properties. In the past, certain exceptions have been made to the law.

At the University, alcohol is allowed to be served at cultural events, such as performances at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts, and also events under a catering license, such as wedding receptions at the Union.

“Any time U of I wanted to have a special event or a benefit for the University, it would have to come to us for permission,” said state Rep. Angelo Saviano, R-River Grove. “It was very time-consuming.”

The Senate bill was introduced by state Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago. It passed in the Senate on April 10 by a 54-1 vote and is now in the House Rules Committee. The bill is scheduled to be voted on some time next week, said Terry McLennand, assistant director of state relations at the University.

Saviano proposed the identical bill in the House. The House Executive Committee approved the bill by a 12-1 vote Wednesday, and it was sent to the House floor Thursday for a second reading. The House will vote on the bill sometime next week and then send it to the Senate.

Both Cullerton and Saviano said they have encountered no opposition to their bills and expect one of them to be passed and signed in the upcoming weeks.

McLennand said the reason for the two bills is to expedite the legislative process. They are “companion bills” where one will be passed and the other thrown out.

Provisions still remain for Memorial Stadium from when the Chicago Bears played at the University football field during the renovation of Soldier Field in Chicago. In addition, provisions have been made for the Beckman Institute on campus.

“As we look down the road, there will be opportunities to serve alcoholic beverages at noncollegiate events,” McLennand said.

McLennand mentioned that the new skyboxes at Memorial Stadium will be an example of such. Other opportunities for alcohol sales include Assembly Hall, which is now expected to be renovated, and concerts held at the University.

The bill would put an end to adding exemptions onto the current law, and instead the Board of Trustees would have jurisdiction over when alcoholic beverages could be sold or served, McLennand said.

After the bill is passed, the Board of Trustees will be given six months in which they must issue a written policy dictating the specific situations under which the University can sell or serve alcohol. This policy will be sent to the Illinois General Assembly for approval, Cullerton said.

“U of I is such a different venue than any other state agency, and things need to be done a little differently,” McLennand said.