City refines proposal on beer in theaters, considers new Freedom Hall ticket vendor

David Floyd • Jun 3, 2019 at 10:02 PM

Johnson City residents of legal drinking age could soon have another reason to go see a classic play at their local theater.

After suggesting revisions at a prior meeting, Johnson City commissioners reviewed a proposed amendment to Title 8 of the city’s municipal code on Monday evening that would allow the sale of alcohol in both movie theaters and theaters that put on live productions. Title 8 governs the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages in the city.

“This proposed draft has no limiting or prohibiting language for ‘theaters,’” said city attorney Sunny Sandos.

The ordinance would require three votes from commissioners before approval. Commissioners could cast the first vote during their regular meeting on Thursday.

Sandos said a previous version of this rule change, which commissioners reviewed during a meeting in May, would have simply added a new class to the city’s alcohol ordinance pertaining to movie theaters.

This amendment expands the permission to include live theaters and removes antiquated language from the city ordinance, like references to “tonics.” Sandos said it also reduces the size of the ordinance by about 25 percent.

“We had repetitive language, we had some things that literally did not apply anymore, we had some things that had been outpaced by state law that we still had in our ordinance,” Sandos said.

Similar to a provision in the city’s current code allowing the sale of alcohol in Cardinal Park on Legion Street, Sandos said staff will add a provision allowing the sale of alcohol in city-owned golf courses, which would only apply to the Pine Oaks Golf Course.

Commissioners also heard the results of a request for proposals for a new ticketing vendor for Freedom Hall, a facility that is owned and operated by Johnson City.

Out of 11 proposals, city staff winnowed the list down to two finalists: Etix and Ticketmaster. The two companies delivered presentations to a committee composed of city personnel, and staff ultimately recommended that the city commission choose Etix for the contract, which will need final approval from body.

This issue is coming in front of commissioners now because the city’s past contract with vendor Ticket Sage is expired, said Assistant City Manager Charlie Stahl. The city is still using Ticket Sage, but it doesn’t have a contract with the company.

“The city, a year ago, was exploring outsourcing the management operations of Freedom Hall to a third-party service,” Stahl said. “The city commission decided not to do that, so we didn’t think it was prudent entering into future contracts until that issue was decided upon.”

According to a city memo, the contract would last for five years, effective July 1, and not result in any extra cost to the city. Instead, Etix would collect 10% of the face price of each ticket at a maximum of $2.75 per ticket.

The memo lists a few other differences that factored into the committee’s final decision.

Etix’s proposal didn’t include an additional charge for email blasts, a service that Ticketmaster would have charged $3,500 per year to provide. Ticketmaster would have also required the city to process credit card charges through its merchant services account rather than the city’s account.

Ultimately, Stahl said Etix offered more flexibility for the city and more favorable rates.

“If we can provide a service to our patrons that’s more economical in our judgment and get the same value, that’s what we intend to do and that’s the basis of this recommendation,” Stahl said.

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