While Tennessee football works to win a national championship, Aramark is working to not lose its beer sales privileges at Neyland Stadium after being arrested three times for selling to underage customers.
The city’s law department wants to suspend Aramark’s permits for at least 60 days and charge the food service company $4,500 for its recent violations.
The option for full permit revocation is on the table, which would prevent Aramark from acquiring a beer permit at Neyland Stadium for 10 years. Another company could return beer to the stadium with the proper permits after a year, city attorney Rob Frost told Knox News.
A pre-hearing conference is scheduled for Dec. 5. The hearing will deal only with beer sales at Neyland Stadium; Frost said the decision would not affect Aramark sales at Thompson-Boling Arena or elsewhere on campus.
Alcohol sales began at Neyland Stadium in 2019 following a change in state law and Southeastern Conference rules.
City codes require a revocation or suspension hearing for any permit holder who has three violations within a two-year period.
Aramark appeared before the Knoxville Beer Board on Oct. 18 in response to two subpoenas. An Aramark attorney shared during the meeting that a third subpoena took place three days earlier during the Tennessee-Alabama game.
All three citations involved workers selling alcohol to underage informants, who are required to use their real IDs. Two servers failed to check IDs, while a third server sold the informant a drink even though the ID showed the customer was underage.
The incidents happened in Tennessee’s games against Akron, Florida and Alabama, but they weren’t Aramark’s first.
Nine dates occurred earlier this season, including seven at Garth Brooks’ November 2019 concert at Neyland Stadium.
But in 2020, by applying for a new permit due to SEC policy changes, Aramark was able to start over, making the previous violations irrelevant.
Faced with two minor violations stemming from last season, Aramark reapplied for a new permit in July for “an expansion of the premises,” according to the city’s complaint. Again, Aramark was able to start over.
All three recent violations occurred under the current permit.
“It’s important to know that (Aramark) has been trying and they’ve made significant investments to prevent the next one,” Tommy Smith, a beer board member and alderman for the district, including UT, told Knox News. “They’re still not perfect. In general, size is not an excuse and they’re not doing it…
“I’m rooting for Aramark because everyone wants them to succeed. But at the same time, it has to be safe and they have to meet the same regulations as a local brewery.”
The complaint cited criminal violations at Neyland Stadium as a concern, as city codes do not allow permit holders to operate the venues in a “disorderly” manner.
The city’s complaint states the following violations have occurred at Neyland Stadium so far this season:
Tennessee sold $2.67 million worth of alcohol during football games last season. Lane Kiffin’s return to Knoxville as Ole Miss coach resulted in the most sales, with 47,890 drink sales generating $547,726.
Tennessee’s only remaining game is on November 12 against Missouri.
Ryan Wiluszdowntown reporter and urban scout for Knox News, can be reached at 865-317-5138 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Follow Ryan’s work on Instagram @KnoxScruff and sign up for Urban Knoxville’s free weekly newsletter. Unlock premium benefits and support strong local journalism at knoxnews.com/subscribe.
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