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USC to sell beer and wine during home football games at the Coliseum

USC players enter the Coliseum before the Pac-12 title game against Oregon
USC fans will be able to purchase alcohol during home football games.
(Ashley Landis / Associated Press)

When the Coliseum reopens to USC fans this fall, they’ll be able to toast their long-awaited return with an adult beverage.

The university’s athletic department announced Thursday it will expand beer and wine sales to all fans this season for the first time since 2004, when USC followed up a national championship season with a ban on the sale of alcoholic beverages in an attempt to curtail bad behavior in the stands.

An end to that 17-year prohibition had been in the works since before the outset of the pandemic, as USC searched for ways to improve the game-day experience at the Coliseum. A season of empty stands — and losses in revenue — only increased that urgency.

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Seven other Pac-12 schools were already set to sell beer and wine in their football stadiums this season, including UCLA, which announced its alcohol sale plans last week. USC has in recent years sold alcohol to donors in the Coliseum’s Scholarship Tower and throughout its club seating, while the Rams sold alcohol to all fans during the four seasons the team spent at the Coliseum.

USC will also sell beer and wine at the Galen Center when basketball season tips off in November.

“As we planned for the return of fans to the Coliseum in 2021, it was a priority to create an even greater game-day experience than before the pandemic,” USC athletic director Mike Bohn said. “We are excited about these enhancements, which ensure that attending a USC game at the Coliseum is a safe and enjoyable experience that matches our spectators’ expectations in the Los Angeles marketplace.”

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Beer and wine sales won’t be the only change this fall at the Coliseum.

Tailgating will also be noticeably different. A state-wide ban on tailgating out of cars in state-owned lots like those outside of the Coliseum means tailgating will be significantly more limited during the upcoming season — and perhaps beyond. USC fans must enter a lottery to purchase tailgating passes ahead of the season for $496 and will be required to secure reservations when attending on-campus tailgates, which won’t open on game days until six hours before kickoff.

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USC expects to take a financial loss due to the new changes to its parking and tailgating access, a person familiar with the decision told the Los Angeles Times. But the addition of alcohol sales offers a means to recover some of that lost revenue.

When USC first banned alcohol sales in 2004, it was one of the last in the then-Pacific 10 Conference to do so. Steven Sample, the university’s president, wrote in a letter to USC supporters at the time that the ban was in response to “an escalation in the rude behavior of fans, rudeness that is almost always exacerbated by alcohol consumption.” He hoped to make the Coliseum more “family friendly.”

“People were coming to make this a beer party rather than drinking some beer while watching the game,” Sample said in 2005.

In a release announcing its reversal, USC’s athletic department cited data that in-stadium alcohol sales, along with proper safety and security measures, “increase the probability of responsible drinking and fan behavior by cutting back on dangerous levels of alcohol consumption at pre-game tailgating.”

Inside the stadium, fans will be limited to two alcoholic beverages per transaction, while beer and wine sales will conclude at the end of the third quarter.

For now, there’s no cap on how many fans will be allowed to attend games this fall. USC announced in June the Coliseum will return to full capacity. But that was before the spike in COVID-19 cases across Southern California.


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