Press "Enter" to skip to content

Regents Brewing Plan to Sell Alcohol on Campus

AAN’s Katherine Grandstrand* notices among the agenda items for the Board of Regents meeting here in Aberdeen today a discussion of proposed legislation for 2016. Leading the list is the Regents’ desire to get into the booze business:

In the coming weeks, a system-level Alcohol Sales Task Force will look at proposed changes to state law that would permit the sale of alcoholic beverages on campuses. The task force is expected to bring its recommendations to the Board’s December meeting. Subject to the task force’s final report, legislation may be advanced to authorize BOR- governed institutions to obtain and operate under on-sale alcohol licenses and special event alcohol on- and off-sale permits, in order to improve service, control, attendance, and revenue generation at institutional events for the benefit of university programming and operational enhancements [South Dakota Board of Regents, Agenda Item 4-G, October 7–8, 2015].

The teetotaler in me says whoa, horse: Do the Regents need to make higher education any higher? Does selling alcohol mean we abandon the dry-campus concept entirely and open basketball games and dorms to beer? Can teetotaling students get an exemption from whatever portion of their tuition and fees the Regents use to buy that liquor license?

The policy wonk in me wonders if the Regents will expand on their alcohol licenses and seek install video lottery terminals on campus as well (hey, you want to generate revenue, right?).

The capitalist in me (there is one, very small) asks how well local entrepreneurs will respond to having to compete with the deep-pocketed Board of Regents for the finite number of licenses available in Lake, Brookings, Clay, Brown, and Lawrence counties for selling hooch. (Pennington County won’t have to worry—the kids at Mines are too busy engineering to want any beer on their campus, right?)

Finally, the educator in me (always sending the capitalist to the principal’s office for making trouble) sees a teachable moment: maybe we can allow the Regents to sell alcohol, but only if it is homebrew. SDSU students already make the best ice cream in the state; let’s set up a still and brand Jackrabbit Moonshine! Let’s create a whole undergraduate program in winemaking and microbrewing, with students learning to make spirited beverages entirely from local ingredients!

Update 20:53 CDT: My original text cited Bob Mercer, who pointed out below that the Regents/alcohol headline came from AAN’s Katherine Grandstrand. I apologize to both reporters for misattributing that discussion-worthy report.


  1. Bob Mercer 2015-10-07

    Cory, another reporter (KG) wrote that advancer for the American News. However, I am in Rapid City today and trying to access the regents livestream via the link provided last week. I can’t get it to work. The link is Any suggestions would be welcomed. I am using my MacBook Pro and just downloaded the latest version of QuickTime hoping that would be help. The refusal message keeps stating the app can’t read “data” format. Anybody?

  2. owen reitzel 2015-10-07

    let’s see. alcohol on campus plus guns. Hmmm. No problem there…….

  3. Porter Lansing 2015-10-07

    First thing that came to mind when reading your headline was your suggestion. In CO many colleges are offering classes and some community colleges offer degrees in fermentation and distillation. Two very viable capitalistic endeavors. If a school only allowed their brand of beer sold at their sporting events it would be a precedent that would make others take notice. (If a recipe for making tequila from tumbleweeds was developed, South Dakota could be the next Mexico). lol

  4. Jerry K. Sweeney 2015-10-07

    If memory serves, the late Senator Arnie Brown persuaded the legislature to forbid state institutions of higher education to offer products to the public at a lower price than that which locally obtains. That’s why SDSU ice cream costs more than what is sold at Hy-Vee.

  5. solemn in SF 2015-10-07

    A lot of colleges are doing this to help monitor/curb binge drinking before football games and other large events. The logic they use says that the kids are drinking even more excessively than drinking college kids are known to do because they know won’t be able to imbibe at the game. So they think need to be extra incapacitated in order to still be drunk when the game is over. I can’t decide if this is like gun control where the answer to too many guns is more guns, which is clearly irrational. Or if there is some merit in the idea that if we bring it more out into the open we can better regulate/monitor and make people safer.

  6. David Newquist 2015-10-07

    There may be a case for making beverages available for some formal, celebratory dinners which are held off campus to accommodate the serving of wine. But some years ago, the U. of Iowa Union set up a tap room. A coalition of professors and students eventually made the emphatic point that it was counter-productive.

    When I first came to NSU, it was during the 3.2 era during which 18-year-olds could drink the weaker brew. There was actually a position on the student government called commissioner of refrigerators. The commissioner was in charge of renting small refrigerators which could hold a six pack or two for the dorm rooms. There were certain times when a classroom smelled like a saloon. But there was no point in holding class on Friday afternoons The few who attended were in a drowsy state or irritated by having to deal with the drowsy ones. Faculty meetings nearly always had someone bring up the point that the on-campus consumption of alcohol countered the purpose of the institution. Eventually, the change in liquor laws as it affected drinking age eliminated the problem, and the five day academic week was revived from near-extinction.

  7. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-10-07

    We drank in the dorms regularly when I was a student, 1971-76. In fact, that’s literally the reason I graduated in 1976 rather than 1975. They weren’t my finest years.

    The U of MN began selling beer, maybe liquor too, at sporting events last year. It was chiefly to appease the big donors who wanted to drink at the football games. The students complained that if drinking was allowed in the stadiun, Everyone ought to be allowed to drink. After all, it’s all about the students, right?! So the regents buckled and allowed them to drink too.

    It remains very controversial.

  8. bearcreekbat 2015-10-07

    $10,000+ for tuition etc seems a pretty high cover charge to get into a party when most bars let you in for a whole lot less, even with a band.

  9. Bill Fleming 2015-10-07

    BCB, maybe if a student bought enough school booze s/he could get a break on tuition. Kind of like a work/study program. Some of the kids in the Art Department back in my college days could have earned a full scholarship. ;-)

  10. kingleon 2015-10-07

    As an alumni of the University of Chicago (PhD 2013), the pub in the basement of the former student union was the best place to drink in Hyde Park, either on or off campus. On-campus pubs offer good places for grad students to discuss theoretical matters of their field long into the night, or an easy place to take a departmental seminar speaker when everyone with access to a car vanishes (that happened pretty often to me…). So, at least at the graduate level, I think the ability of a campus to sell liquor can be a very positive thing.

  11. Mike J 2015-10-07

    Cory said “(Pennington County won’t have to worry—the kids at Mines are too busy engineering to want any beer on their campus, right?)”

    That wasn’t the case when I went to school there in the 90’s. They were a very large party school. I was shocked. Don’t know what it is like now, though.

  12. bearcreekbat 2015-10-07

    Bill, if that were the case I should have earned a free ride at Mankato State College, except the college didn’t sell the booze – dang it!

    As an aside, it is a historical fact that during the William Henry Harrison presidential campaign his supporters capitalized on his Democrat opponents characterizing him as a log cabin drunk by bringing alcohol in log cabin shaped containers to the campaign events and giving this stuff out for free to win votes. The fellow owning the company providing the alcohol was named “E. C. Booz,” hence many folks argue that is the origin of this term, “booze.”

  13. bearcreekbat 2015-10-07

    Mike J – can you say “Hall’s Inn?”

  14. Anthony D. Renli 2015-10-07

    bearcreekbat – Sadly, as I learned the last time I was in Rapid City. The Hall Inn has closed.

    I shed a tear of sorrow – where else within walking distance of campus could modern students totally hose their GPA?

  15. bearcreekbat 2015-10-07

    Anthony – probably at the upstairs in the Firehouse – an equally popular hangout in the 1970’s and 80’s for the upcoming engineers.

  16. grudznick 2015-10-07

    Indeed. The Hall Inn is no longer and was a shell of its former self for some time before it closed. Only the sticky floors and painted ceiling tiles remained.

  17. rwb 2015-10-07

    I’d rather light a candle than curse the darkness. If SDSU can make premium ice cream they can make premium beer. Possibly an inter-University project with SDSU doing the ingredients, School of Mines designing the brewing facility, USD handling the marketing, Dakota State in charge of online sales, BHSU handling the national and international marketing and NSU training all the new employees.

    I would become a customer of a deal like that.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    Bob Mercer! I apologize for misattributing and for not getting to your comment soon enough to help you access the live feed. Were you able to get the video?

    (I’ll correct the attribution above immediately!)

  19. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    Porter—move from R&D to F&D? Sounds like a winner!

    RWB—that’s an amazing proposal for inter-campus collaboration! I like it!

  20. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    Jerry K.S., do you recall when Senator Arnie Brown got that legislation passed, and/or under what SDCL chapter we can find it?

  21. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    Deb, on U of M—really? Folks can’t do all their drinking at the tailgate party before and at the pub after the game? They can’t refrain from drinking alcohol for a mere three hours in the stadium? And big donors, don’t y’all have enough fancy drinking establishments and sherry at home that you don’t need to turn campus into a pub, too?

  22. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-07

    Bill Fleming, would that be the BYOB tuition break?

  23. Don Coyote 2015-10-07

    I rank the chances of alcohol being sold on SD campuses somewhere in the realm of a snowball’s chance in hell.

    @kingleon: The bar in Ida Noyes Hall must have come after my time at U of C in the 70’s.

    However alcohol wasn’t hard to find on campus. Most of the dorm houses had school sponsored sherry hours so students could rub elbows with the faculty while drinking wine and sherry. A student government group called the Students for Violent Non-Action would place 20 gallon garbage cans of Kool Aid mixed with grain alcohol lifted from the chemistry department’s supply on the Quadrangles for public consumption. This concoction would also show up at student government parties like the clothing optional Lascivious Costume Ball (I believe the administration ended the ball in the 80’s). As Mike Royko wrote in the Chicago Tribune, “It just shows that, despite the awesome number of Nobel Prizes won by the U. of C. – exceeding the number of bowling trophies in most Chicago bars – the students have a playful streak.”

  24. kingleon 2015-10-07

    Oh, no, for sure, alcohol is easily obtained on campus even for us exhausted grad students; the ancient and beloved Evolutionary Morphology seminar, scheduled from 7-8 PM, always served up free beer (particularly Negro Modelo) and almost every department had a fully functioning Happy Hour on Friday. The Geophysical Science dept even had their own tap. That said… the pub is where UChicago grad students went after EvMorph and the happy hours. They had excellent food, but of course, that was because they had a partnership with the hallowed Medici on 57th. Of course, our offices and labs are where we often went after the pub, because who wants to walk around Hyde Park late at night, and anyway there’s still that simulation to run or those samples to check on every 6 hours.

    Also, the Lascivious Costume Ball exists (so it still lives? lives again? who knows):

    Anyway, certainly, yes, the record of UChicago proves that alcohol does not necessarily dampen academic persuits.

  25. Don Coyote 2015-10-08

    @rwb: The craft beer/micro brew market is at or near saturation nationally. The liquor stores are running out of shelf space to display the multitude of beers and the bars have run out of tap handles for dispensing. SD universities would be behind the curve in setting up brewing programs which very seldom run past a year in length and would be more appropriate for junior colleges and vocational schools. Also did South Dakota ever solve the problem of self distribution or do the breweries still have to sell through distributors?

  26. Roger Elgersma 2015-10-08

    I agree with Owen, not only are the combination of alcohol and firearms a bad combo, but bringing in the alcohol might even make some more sure they need a gun.

  27. grudznick 2015-10-08

    Mr. Coyote may have a good point. However if we have reached the saturation point in craft adult beverages we should soon see the prices going down. I think you see the people who buy those fancy beers for $12 a six pack and then you see the people who buy those really big beers for $1 a beer and you think they have different taste buds but really they don’t. It’s all about the packaging.

  28. Vance Feyereisen 2015-10-08

    Cory, I think your reference to home brew may have already happened.

    About 10 years ago I worked at a local elevator. A salesman for silage preservatives stopped in sell us his product. He was passing out six packs of “Kentucky Ale”. He claimed that the manufacture of silage preservatives and brewing beer were sort of joined at the hip. The beer was supposedly made in Brookings but could not be sold in SD. So it was sold out of Kentucky.

    It had a good kick and a six-pack could have probably supported a 2 day bender.

  29. Bob Klein 2015-10-08

    SDSU (and probably USD) is going to have fancy boxes for all the bigwigs who pay for the new facilities. In addition to getting their faces plastered all over advertising throughout the sporting events, they’ll want their guests plastered as well.

    I’d be surprised if they extend this courtesy to the residents of their dormitories.

    However, I’m nearly convinced that universities are less about education than they are about economic development for their environs. The longer it takes students to graduate, the more they spend on everything the community has to offer, from residence halls to apartments to pizza and alcohol.

  30. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-10-08

    Made in Brookings, Vance? I hear there’s some good craft brew downtown, but I don’t think any of it is Jackrabbit pedigree yet. But I defer to local cicerones….

    Bob, I agree that too many Regental decisions are focusing on something other than direct educational benefit.

  31. Bob Klein 2015-10-08

    Wooden Legs Brewing Company is in downtown Brookings. Makes their product there.

    I’m not sure that that’s what you meant by “Jackrabbit pedigree.”

    Disclosure. I’m not yet a customer.

  32. Deb Geelsdottir 2015-10-08

    Higher ed everywhere is looked at as more of a local economic engine everywhere. Actual quality student education is the sideshow.

Comments are closed.