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Steelers Heinz Field gains liquor license

Thursday, August 16, 2001

By Tom Barnes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

Relax, Steelers fans. You will be able to buy a beer while you're watching your favorite football team perform at Heinz Field.

In a decision released yesterday, the state Liquor Control Board granted the liquor license sought by Aramark Sports and Entertainment Services for the new 65,000-seat stadium, due to open for football Aug. 25.

The board, in a 3-0 decision, overruled complaints by Allegheny West residents, who live just up the hill from Heinz Field, about the rowdy, uncouth behavior of some football fans who consumed beer at Three Rivers Stadium and who, presumably, will drink at Heinz Field.

At a hearing held here Friday, some residents complained that Aramark did a poor job in the past of controlling beer and liquor sales to football fans at Three Rivers.

As a result, the residents said, some fans carried cups of beer into their neighborhood, urinating on their lawns and shouting and singing loudly. They also drove the wrong way down one-way streets, got into fights and committed other acts endangering public safety, according to residents.

But Aramark regional general manager Michael McDonald defended his operation, saying numerous steps were taken at Three Rivers -- and would continue at Heinz Field -- to ensure that beer and alcohol would be responsibly sold.

"If Aramark follows responsible hospitality guidelines and conducts business in a manner consistent with the testimony they presented at the Aug. 10 public hearing, we have no reason to deny their application for a public venue [liquor] license," said LCB Chairman John E. Jones III.

"We listened to the concerns of the citizens who live near the park and are satisfied that the concessionaire will take the necessary steps to ensure that it operates in a legal and responsible manner."

Steelers spokesman Ron Wahl said, "We are pleased with the decision, and now we can move forward with getting our fabulous new stadium ready to open."

McDonald said Aramark will stop beer sales at the end of the third quarter, as it had for years at Three Rivers Stadium.

All alcohol-selling employees will receive training, including how to spot intoxicated patrons and how to require proper identification from purchasers, to make sure no underage people buy beer.

No buyer will be allowed to buy more than two beers at a single purchase, he said. Aramark will have as many as 25 supervisors patrolling the stadium on game days, checking on the sales practices of beverage servers at its concession stands and in the seats.

McDonald said that Aramark's policy calls for severe discipline, including dismissal, for any seller who sells alcohol to a visibly intoxicated person or anyone under 21.

Michael Coleman, a member of the Allegheny West Civic Council board, said yesterday, "All we were asking for is that Aramark act in a legal and responsible manner."

He said that Aramark, like any other establishment that serves alcohol, "is responsible for the actions of the patrons."

He said the civic group now knows -- as it didn't in the past -- that the LCB "is the venue in which to air our complaints about the impact of Aramark's patrons.

"It's our neighborhood," he added. "If somebody is misbehaving, we will point it out to the proper authorities," including the police and state liquor control enforcement officials.

Allegheny West Civic Council President John DeSantis said he was never trying to stop beer sales at Heinz Field, "as long as the liquor laws were enforced, which they were not in the past."

Civic council lawyer Pat Sorek said residents "are optimistic that the Liquor Control Board is now aware of the issues and the council looks forward to working state liquor enforcement agents to see the liquor laws are enforced in the neighborhood."

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