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Peaks may steer clear of Oly beer

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PROVO ? The Peaks Ice Arena may be the only venue for the 2002 Winter Games that won't have beer on tap for thirsty crowds.

Less than a month before the start of the Games, Provo city leaders say no one has applied for a permit to serve alcohol. And representatives from the Salt Lake Organizing Committee say they don't know if vendors with the contract to provide food at the Peaks will ask for a permit to serve beer.

Alcohol will not be served at two Olympic hot spots: Rice Eccles Stadium during the opening and closing ceremonies and the medals plaza, which is on land owned by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

Spirits are expected to be served at other outdoor and indoor venues, however.

If food vendors decide to apply for a permit at Provo's Peaks, they may run into problems. Alcohol sales or consumption is prohibited by city code at the ice arena ? and the only way to change that may be through the City Council.

But several members of Provo's City Council have publicly said they would not change city laws to accommodate Olympic beer sales at the Peaks.

When the council discussed the issue in the fall of 2000, Councilman Stan Lockhart said the city needed to "draw a line in the sand" and stand up for community values.

That upset Mayor Lewis Billings and members of his staff, who said the council had voted in a 1998 agreement to "cooperate with SLOC in obtaining . . . permits to serve alcohol" at the Peaks during the Olympics.

Alcohol sponsorships helped pay for construction funds at the Peaks, said Assistant City Attorney Gary McGinn. SLOC paid Provo $3 million to use the Peaks and will pay another $3 million when the Olympics are over.

City Attorney Gary Gregorson said it would be "disingenuous" to use sponsor dollars for the construction of the facility and then not allow beer sales.

The response from council members? They didn't recall making any promises to allow alcohol sales at the Peaks.

A week later, Billings' staff said an ordinance change wouldn't be necessary ? the city could issue a class B beer license instead.

The next week, Billings said a class B license may not work at the Peaks because, according to city code, it applies to "only bona fide restaurants, where a variety of hot food is prepared and complete meals are served . . . and at which food sales constitute at least 60 percent of the gross money receipts."

Under those guidelines, the Peaks did not qualify.

Since that time, the issue has not been discussed, said mayoral spokesman Michael Mower. Mower said he was not sure if the city could issue a class B license for the Peaks or if the council would have to change an ordinance to allow beer sales there.

If an ordinance change is necessary, time is running out. The last council meeting before the Olympics starts is Jan. 22. "At this point, the Peaks may be the only liquor-free venue at the Olympics," Mower said.

E-MAIL: jhyde@desnews.com