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Our Opinion: Alcohol should be allowed at Gichi-ziibi — in certain circumstances

Yes, the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts is a Brainerd Public Schools facility, but belongs to and will be used by the entire community, for everyone to enjoy. We see the service of alcohol as amenable to the purpose of the building when it’s hosting public events not related to the school district.

Brainerd Dispatch editorial
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Should the Brainerd Public Schools allow alcohol sales during non-school events at the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts?

It's a question the school board is currently mulling and like the school board, we can see the pros and cons on both sides. It’s not a simple question to answer.

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The popularity of wake boats has been on the rise in recent years, and so has the controversy around them.

But taking all things into consideration, we feel serving alcohol at school facilities during non-school functions should be allowed. We don’t see a scenario where someone would attend a function, concert or other event with the idea of abusing the alcohol being served. Instead, we see it operating like other entertainment venues — people having a glass of wine or two while enjoying a show.

This issue was brought to the school board May 9 by Scott Lykins, Lakes Area Music Festival executive director, who sought permission to serve alcohol at the season-opening gala and four other concerts taking place at the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts throughout the summer.

The alcohol service, Lykins said, would be strictly limited to the Gichi-ziibi Center’s lobby and would only be available to ticketed or invited guests, who are typically exclusively adults. The alcohol would only be served by licensed caterers, and there would also be nonalcoholic options. Lakes Area Music Festival would obtain its own liquor license from the city prior to the sales, meaning no liability would fall on the district.

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At the May 9 meeting, school Board member Charles Black Lance asked his fellow board members to consider looking at how any risk factors would be mitigated and, most importantly of all, how serving alcohol would ultimately serve the district’s students.

We respect Black Lance’s concerns, and they are valid. But we don’t believe the alcohol sales proposed would rise to the level of concern of promoting alcohol to students, especially when the events proposed are not school events.

Also, we don’t think the School Board would be setting a precedent if it crafted a well-defined policy that takes into account any request for all facilities within the school district. Part of that policy should include a caveat that each request will be considered on a case-by-case basis, with final approval coming from a vote by the School Board.

Yes, the Gichi-ziibi Center for the Arts is a Brainerd Public Schools facility, but it was approved by voters in 2018 and built to be so much more. It belongs to and will be used by the entire community, for everyone to enjoy. We see the service of alcohol as amenable to the purpose of the building when it’s hosting public events not related to the school district.

The Brainerd Dispatch Editorial Board members are Dispatch and Echo Journal Publisher Pete Mohs, former Dispatch Publisher Terry McCollough, Dispatch Editor Matt Erickson, Dispatch Managing Editor Renee Richardson and Echo Journal Editor Nancy Vogt.
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