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Prince George’s County Board of License Commissioners approves Maryland’s plan to sell beer at athletic events

The University of Maryland projects that beer sales will produce $500,000 annually in added revenue. (Jonathan Newton/The Washington Post)

The Prince George’s County Board of Commissioners on Wednesday approved Maryland’s proposal to sell beer at Byrd Stadium and Xfinity Center beginning in September.

The decision comes nearly a month after Maryland President Wallace D. Loh approved the student-led proposal, and he spoke to the board for nearly 30 minutes Wednesday about the initiative’s potential as an “amazing and bold experiment.” The board also heard a detailed pitch from a number of other Maryland representatives, including the University’s Chief of Police David Mitchell and Athletic Council chair Nick Hadley.

Only one board member, vice chairman Shaihi Mwalimu, opposed the move Wednesday, and Loh was careful to label the approval as a victory.

“I would describe it as an expression of confidence in our students and above all a commitment to their safety. That they learn to drink responsibly and safely in a monitored environment,” Loh said  after the hearing.

With the approval, Maryland becomes one of the few power five conference schools to offer beer at athletic events. According to published reports, 32 of the 128 Football Bowl Subdivision schools allowed alcohol sales last season. Only five of those schools – Louisville, Miami, Minnesota, Syracuse and West Virginia – were from power five conferences. Loh also said Wednesday that both Ohio State and Texas will begin alcohol sales at home football games this fall.

Maryland projects beer sales will bring in at least $500,000 annually of added revenue, proceeds that will be contributed to mental health counseling, responsible drinking programs and sexual assault awareness programs, Loh said, adding that he believed the proposal will cut into binge drinking.

“I am doing it because I do believe that creating a safe and responsible environment will mitigate, over time, the issues of excessive drinking,” Loh said during his presentation.

Maryland will not offer wine during the trial year, instead choosing to focus on beer sales. While the menu has not been set, the school is insisting that at least three craft beers from Maryland breweries are included, said Maryland Senior Associate Director of Dining Services Joe Mullineaux. The school will allow only one drink per transaction.

Several board members raised questions Wednesday about the potential accessibility of alcohol to minors at football and basketball games next season. Mullineaux spoke at length about the school’s plans to curb availability of alcohol to underage students at Byrd Stadium and Xfinity Center — no alcohol will be available near student sections and the school plans to use scanners and black lights to check identifications.

The school also plans to increase security throughout the stadium and is working on a designated driver program. Mitchell also said the police force will number about 150 next year, in addition to around 80 “yellow jacket” security workers.

As part of the proposal, Loh is planning to commission the Division of Student Affairs to prepare a report on the one-year trial period to gauge the long-term viability of alcohol sales at Byrd Stadium and Xfinity Center.