I once had a favorite professor at the University of Minnesota who was everything you wanted in a teacher: Brilliant. Challenging. Thoughtful. Full of wise advice.
He was also completely dumbfounded by anything mechanical, whether it was a recording device or a simple pull-down video screen. I once helped him get a bottle of water out of vending machine.
He was the cliché of the absent-minded professor, a caricature of someone who was able to negotiate the lofty heights of thought but wasn’t very dexterous with the practical.
The professor came to mind this week for some reason I can’t recall.
Wait a minute; now I remember: The U disclosed to this newspaper a few days ago just how it lost money selling beer and wine at the new football stadium.
Let that sink in for a minute.
It lost money selling booze. To football fans. And students.
The last time I went to a Gophers football game, I sat right next to the student section. I seem to recall feeling like I was surrounded by human cash machines who would dispense all their disposable income if you simply inserted beer.
As I read the story I became increasingly perplexed as to how my beloved alma mater could lose money selling booze to unquestionably the most boozehoundy captured market on the planet. Then I got to the last paragraph of the story, which quoted Board of Regents member Clyde Allen.
He said the focus was on prohibiting underage alcohol sales.
“Making money on it is not really the main purpose of it,” Allen said. “We’re more interested in being sure that we can control the sale of it.”
So instead of making money on $900,000 in sales of beer and wine, they lost $16,000 but kept the freshmen safe from the scourge of the deadly brew. I’m sure those same freshmen will be delighted the U doesn’t want to make money next time they write the increasingly mammoth check for tuition.
The U lost money because the percentage of the take it negotiated with the concessionaire, 22.5 percent, was too small. The U got beaten on the numbers by the vendor.
Man, I can’t wait to see the results of the deal they made with the Wilfs to let the Vikings use the stadium for two years.
Since the beer bust was discovered, the concessionaire, Aramark, has agreed to return $37,000 to the U and renegotiated the deal to ensure they make a few bucks next year.
So I guess now it is about the money.
Losing money selling beer to students and football fans seemed so outlandish I dropped in at Town Hall Brewery, near the U, to make sure they were still in business. Kitchen manager Jared Norris assured me it was not impossible to make money selling beer to that crowd.
What’s your secret, I asked.
“My serious answer is that we make our own beer and control quality,” Norris said. And, I assume they made sure the beer was priced to cover costs, and then some.
I asked Norris if they’d ever lost money selling beer to football fans and students.
“Ah, no,” he said.
Next I stopped at Zipp’s Liquor, also near campus. A manger there assured me that making a profit selling beer and wine to students has gone pretty well for the past 54 years.
I know for a fact that some people might just stop into Zipp’s for a half-pint to sneak in to the stadium on game day, meaning the liquor store made more money on booze than the U did.
Outside the Carlson School of Management, I ran into Nicolas Styles, who as it happens is just finishing up his MBA in strategic management. I told him about the loss and the regent’s quote.
“Why wouldn’t you want to make money?” Styles asked. “Sounds like a bad plan and bad execution.”
I have a feeling there is a good job out there for this young man.
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