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Wendy Reuer, Published December 09 2013

Concordia to take advantage of city ordinance allowing liquor licenses for nonprofit private colleges

MOORHEAD – Wedding guests might soon be able to toast the happy couple at receptions held on Concordia College’s otherwise dry campus.

Weddings are held throughout the summer on the private university’s picturesque campus, but couples often choose to have the reception off-site, where – at the very least – a champagne toast can be raised, said Concordia Dining Services Director Debra Lee Ross.

So when the Minnesota Legislature passed a law earlier this year allowing private universities to apply for a liquor license in cities where it was allowed, Moorhead followed suit, passing an ordinance on Nov. 25 that allows licenses for nonprofit private colleges, said Councilwoman Brenda Elmer.

Concordia is a part of Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and about 2,600 students attend classes on the dry campus.

Lee Ross said many colleges’ catering services obtain liquor licenses. Her department will apply for a limited license that allows for wine and beer sales during summer months.

“From a catering perspective, it seems to make sense,” she said.

Lee Ross said many of today’s couples and wedding guests have a distinguished palate and expect wine pairings with the meals Concordia caters.

“Serving wine really does enhance the dining experience, and a lot of brides and grooms are pretty in tune to that,” Lee Ross said.

“A lot of students meet their future spouse on campus, and it’s sentimental for them to come back and get married here.”

While dozens of weddings are held at Concordia each year, Lee Ross said only two receptions were held on campus last year. She said she definitely believed an inability to provide wine or champagne caused couples to hold receptions elsewhere.

The city ordinance, which takes effect today, specifies the college must be private and alcohol cannot be sold in residences on campus or within 300 feet of the public Minnesota State University Moorhead property located a few blocks east of Concordia.

City Clerk Michelle French said Moorhead allows nonprofits to partner with liquor license holders and obtain a temporary permit to sell alcohol at special events. But the new ordinance will allow Concordia Catering to sell its own wine and beer at weddings.

If the license is approved, Concordia Catering servers will be expected to undergo training, French said.

If the license is approved, Lee Ross said Concordia Catering will likely not serve wine until 2015.

“We’ll only be using it in the summer, and most of the weddings (in 2014) have already been planned,” she said.

Readers can reach Forum reporter

Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530