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Knoxville recommends suspending beer license for Neyland Stadium's vendor

The non-compliance complaint came after Aramark received three citations for selling alcohol to underage minor informants.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — The city of Knoxville wants to suspend the beer license for the vendor of Neyland Stadium, according to a non-compliance complaint.

Neyland's vendor Aramark is fighting to keep its license, saying the city is making accusations based on first impressions. The company says some of the issues brought up in a 100-page filing are from the past and they have already been resolved. On Nov. 4, Aramark filed a motion to strike violations.

Documents show three Aramark employees were cited for serving alcohol to underage minor informants at the games against Florida, Alabama and Akron.

"The City of Knoxville has requested that your beer permit be suspended or revoked at a public hearing," it wrote in a formal notice to Aramark. "At this hearing, the City intends to present evidence to support the City’s request that the permit be suspended for a period of not less than sixty (60) days and that the Permittee pay a fine of no less than $1,500 per violation, for a total of $4,500."

The city says the stadium is operating in a "disorderly" manner. Aramark's motion to strike document said the city "wholly ignores the complexities of security and law enforcement efforts at Neyland stadium."

"When someone has three infractions of non-compliance, they have to go for a revocation/suspension hearing," councilman Tommy Smith said. "Aramark has made significant changes to their operation every week of the game, so it's not as if they're just neglecting to change anything."

For the 2022 season, Aramark said the company introduced identification scanners to better adhere to state and local laws.

Credit: Grace King
An alcohol compliance officer helps direct traffic as he ensures employees and fans are following protocol.

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It said the signal with those scanners was interrupted during the Florida game, which required its servers to revert back to manually checking IDs.

"These citations have taught Aramark a valuable lesson – if servers do not adhere to their training, then Aramark’s Plan does not work to its full capability, no matter how sophisticated Aramark’s Plan," Aramark wrote in response to the city. "Aramark’s Plan to prevent sales of alcohol to underage customers at Neyland Stadium is largely effective, but for two unfortunate instances of human error."

Councilwoman Seema Singh said she believes they need to look at additional ways of enforcing compliance efforts.

Credit: Knoxville

"This isn't a restaurant or a bar — this is a small city forming that wants to purchase beer," she said. "I've had a lot of concerns right from the beginning of selling that much beer to that many people in such a short period of time."

Knoxville also detailed its issues with the number of criminal violations at Tennessee home games.

"Given the number of violations of law that have occurred on the Premises in just the past sixty days, and in accordance with the express language set forth in Ordinance Section 4-73 (c), the City would state that the Hearing Officer should consider revoking the Permittee’s permit," the city wrote. 

Aramark said it typically has 160 places for people to buy alcohol. With sell-out crowds, it said it averages about 40,000 beverages sold per game.

"Aramark is committed to preventing sales of alcoholic beverages to minors as demonstrated by its robust 125-page Strategic Alcohol Service Plan," it said. "The second sale to a minor citation revealed a vulnerability in Aramark’s Plan. Safe and proper service of beer and prevention of underage sales remains Aramark’s top priority."

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