The Sandy Amphitheater will allow alcohol sales at select outdoor concerts, a move that city officials say could attract large national acts and keep patrons from “sneaking” liquor into the venue.
On Tuesday, the City Council approved in a 6-1 vote a land-use change that would allow alcohol sales at the park at 1245 E. 9400 South, where the amphitheater, senior citizen center and a water feature are located.
The amendment allows concert promoters, concessionaires and other select groups to apply for single-event alcohol permits through the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control — something that has not been allowed on the site before.
Amphitheater officials say they will sell only beer that is 4 percent by volume (or 3.2 by weight). No heavy beer, wine or spirits will be available during the concerts.
In recent years, “Where can I buy a beer?” has been one of the most asked questions during events at the amphitheater, Executive Director Mearle Marsh wrote in a memorandum to city officials before Tuesday’s discussion.
Hoping to maintain a community feel, though, the venue has allowed patrons to bring outside food and drinks to concerts. Many people have been “sneaking” alcohol into the amphitheater, Marsh wrote. “I want to stress that in the past year, there as been alcohol consumed (illegally) at every show."
Revenue brought in by alcohol sales will allow the amphitheater to hire professional security to check bags and prevent outside liquor bottles from being brought in.
In fact, before the DABC grants a temporary beer permit, a group must prove that it has adequate controls to prevent underage drinking and overconsumption. Security measures being proposed at the Sandy Amphitheater include wristbands for those over 21, bag and cooler checks at the entry gates and more ushers, so that there is one for every 50 patrons.
“When we sell alcohol, we will be better able to control the amount of consumption by keeping out personal supplies, monitoring the number of drinks and setting a time to stop sales,” Marsh wrote in the memo. “This will help prevent patrons from drinking too much and becoming a distraction.”
Marsh said beer will not be sold at every event — such as children’s shows and summer musicals. “We will target events we feel have the best possibility of financial success,” namely national acts and popular country musicians.
“We will make it really clear which shows are going to serve alcohol," explained Deputy Mayor Evelyn Everton, “so patrons know there will be stricter requirements about what they can bring into the venue.”
The amphitheater, which has 2,000 reserved seats and about 750 spaces on grass where guests can sit on blankets or lawn chairs, opened in 1999 and over the past two decades has attracted many up-and-coming performers, including Taylor Swift and Kelsea Ballerini, explained Everton.
Tickets for this year’s summer season went on sale Tuesday and included two shows featuring Grammy-award winner Norah Jones.
Concert promoters, Everton said, "have started to realize what a great venue it is.”
Everton said Sandy officials decided to look into beer sales after a Utah concert promoter approached the City Council in March, saying that certain acts and performers would not book at the amphitheater if alcohol wasn’t available.
It used to be that bands and solo artists earned most of their money from album sales. Today, thanks to music downloads and streaming, groups make the majority of money touring and performing live.
“We are finding that it is more and more expensive to put on concerts,” she said, and revenue from alcohol sales “makes it more self-sustaining.”