By Susannah Waite, Editor-in-Chief
It is unclear whether beer and wine will be served at a new campus restaurant and if the university will profit from those sales.
Contradicting statements from university officials have been released regarding the sale of alcohol at the Rehearsals restaurant. Meanwhile, the leader of the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church said he will do everything in his power to prevent the sale of alcohol on campus.
Rick Hall, vice president for student affairs, told The Campus in January that the restaurant, located at 23rd Street and Virginia Avenue, would serve beer and wine.
He also said at the time that students would be allowed to use Stars Cash for the purchases, but since clarified that Stars Cash may be used only for buying food.
The restaurant, Rehearsals, is on property owned by the university. Sodexo, the university’s food service provider, leased the building at the beginning of the academic year and will run the restaurant, officials said.
University officials said they are not in partnership with Sodexo, but previously told The Campus that the university would receive a percentage of the restaurant’s profits.
Since Sodexo leases the building, they control the menu, Hall said in January.
A March 28 statement from the president’s office read: “Sodexo has offered to refrain from serving alcoholic beverages at this time.”
The decision was made because of “recent questions raised regarding how the university alcohol policy impacts Rehearsals,” according to the statement.
A portion of the student handbook policy addressing alcohol and drug use reads: “Oklahoma City University is to be a safe environment free from alcohol and other drugs. It recognizes that the use of alcohol and illegal drugs diminishes the strength and vitality of human resources and the integrity of the institution. It is the intent of the University to educate and encourage students to abstain from alcohol and other drugs.”
Sodexo officials made university administrators aware of their plan to serve alcohol at the restaurant, according to another statement Hall provided April 4 to The Campus.
“This recommendation was made to and approved by the Real Estate Committee of the Trustees of the University, and that committee included information about the planned restaurant in a report to the full Board of Trustees in January 2013,” read the statement.
Officials declined Thursday to release minutes from the January board meeting because trustees had not yet approved them.
Trustee Rev. Brian Bakeman said the restaurant may have been presented to the trustees as part of a committee report.
“I know about it, so I have to assume it came up at a board of trustees’ meeting,” he said.
Bakeman said he does not support serving alcohol to students, but said he “probably wouldn’t hamstring a restaurant by telling them they couldn’t serve wine or beer.”
The restaurant is planned for use by the public and the campus community, said Kelli Keegan, director of food services.
“It’s definitely part of the business model for beer and wine to be served to help maintain a sustaining and thriving business,” Keegan said April 4.
When asked April 4 if Rehearsals would serve beer and wine, Keegan and Hall did not answer directly.
“We are planning to be a competitive restaurant within the uptown 23rd District,” Keegan said.
Bishop Robert E. Hayes, Jr. said he does not support serving alcohol at the restaurant.
“I would pray that the school would come to realize that we have a lot more to lose than to gain from this,” Hayes said during an interview with News on the Twos, OCU-TV’s student-run newscast.
Hayes serves on the university’s board of trustees as the leader of the Oklahoma Annual Conference of the church. The university receives about $1.2 million annually from the Methodist church.
“I think I would have to look at ways to influence the school to cease and desist from going down that road, and I would have to use everything within my power to sort of persuade them… to convince them… to implore them this would not be in the best interest of the institution,” Hayes said.
The Methodist Book of Discipline, the official listing of the church’s laws and stances,encourages abstinence from alcohol and reads that the church should avoid financial investments that support the distribution of alcoholic beverages.
Hall said he is surprised there have been concerns with Rehearsals.
“I’ve probably been surprised the most about Rehearsals because we were so purposeful about making sure Sodexo did not violate university policy,” Hall said. “I don’t know that there is an issue to be resolved.
“We have a lot of strong relationships with constituent groups, so we will be paying close attention to them and any concerns they have.”
Contributing: Hailey Holloway, OCU-TV