Liquor possibly joining list of drinks organizations can serve at Richland Two conference center

RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) - Other alcoholic beverages may soon be available to be served at one Midlands school district's conference center.

The R2I2 facility currently holds Richland Two's district office and conference center along with having classrooms and a partnership with the Richland County library.

For nearly three years, the conference center, available for events like after-hours business meetings and weddings - allowed for consumption of beer and wine, but Tuesday, a vote by board members may also add liquor.

Both sides spoke for and against adding liquor in addition to the current beer and wine policy.

Some say this will have no effect on the students as it's not served at the school or in the library.

Those against adding liquor say that beer and wine are "enough."

"We do have a policy that does allow beer and wine," Monica Elkins, a current board member said. "Why can't we be satisfied with that? Why do we need to incorporate liquor?"

As some put it, alcohol should not be available for consumption anywhere near or around students, and it would not be. The school is separate from the library which is separate from the conference facility. The district, which rents out its conference center for after-hours business meetings, weddings and such, does not allow any alcohol outside the conference area.

Abdullah Mustafa, a parent of a Richland Two student says that it's "already to the extreme for them to have beer and wine, I find that to be a problem in itself."

Mustafa is talking about the policy in place allowing beer and wine into the conference center of the R2I2 facility, which is a 750+ seat facility making it the largest option for events in the northeast part of Richland County.

"When you use that facility to go upstairs you do have to pass the public library as well as pass the students that are hanging around in the school facility so, yeah, students will encounter this," Elkins said. "The current policy has been in place for nearly three years and it does have strict guidelines."

Advocates of the change, which they say will help generate revenue that could be missed with the liquor ban, say that everything is in place to prevent alcohol from affecting students.

"Students are our number one safety, right?" Craig Plank, Richland 2 school board of trustees chairman said. "We have from a school structural standpoint, but also when we have people on the grounds. The Richland 2 Institute of Innovation serves also as a meeting facility for the outside for the community in the northeast. Part of that what we want to do is make sure the hours of operation that may involve alcohol would be outside of the school hours. The security is set up so that particular area is easily cornered off or roped off and there are strict guidelines that alcohol will be taken out or inside to that area."

Another parent says adding liquor to the policy could help flourish business to the facility.

"So I think that expanding it to include all alcohol makes good business sense," Jennifer Harding, a former parent of a Richland Two student, said. "Because I know that they are losing opportunities for bookings because they don't offer full service."

Plank believes the move is the right one to help provide the school district with a source of self-sufficient income.

"We're simply reviewing policy right now as a matter of standard practice," Plank said. "This is one that has come up to review to make sure that we remain competitive in the northeast, to make sure that this is a revenue producing entity that will help offset and help take some of the burden off the taxpayer."

This policy will be voted on Tuesday at 6:30 and is open to the public.

No public money is spent on alcohol by the school district. All alcohol is provided by the organization holding the event at the conference center.

If you'd like to look at the policy currently in place, click here.

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