Today’s round of questions, my smart-aleck replies and the real answers:
Question: The UNC-A Men’s basketball team is hot. The team is on a winning streak, leads the Big South Conference, and fan attendance is noticeably skyrocketing. A friend and I attended the Feb. 2 game against rival High Point University. The energy level inside Kimmel Arena was high among players and fans alike. My friend and I entered Kimmel 20 minutes ahead of tip off. We found the one concession stand selling beer with a long line of thirsty customers, so we decided instead to find our seats before purchasing refreshments. I offered to make the first beer run strategically, selecting five minutes after tip off expecting the line to be down. The line had not shortened. Standing in line for 15 minutes finally led me to the single queue for taking orders and money. The staffer politely informed me he could sell me two beers but I could only take one. I would have to return for the second. Thanks to a nearby condiments table, I stashed my first beer behind a ketchup bottle, returned for the second beer, retrieved the first beer and returned to my seat in time to watch the final six minutes of the first half. There was no second-half beer run as the line only got longer throughout the remainder of the game. My questions are obvious: In the heart of BeerCity, USA, why only one beer concession stand? Why the one beer per customer limit? Why only one queue for taking orders and cashiering? Why only canned beer that must be individually poured into plastic cups instead of draft beer? It’s no wonder the line never went down. My friend and I would have enjoyed the refreshment of a second-half beer while contributing to the concession stand profits benefiting the university. Go Bulldogs and congratulations on their tremendous season.
My answer: Man, this guy really knows how to pull at my heartstrings, because nothing breaks my heart more than an underserved beer connoisseur. Trust me, friend, your beer advocate is on this one!
Real answer: UNC Asheville spokesperson Michael P. Strysick said they were “well aware of the challenges” at this particular game, “and we are working with our concessionaire to make adjustments.”
Three things were going on, he said.
“First, we must scrupulously follow state guidelines that restrict beer purchases to two per person,” Strysick said. “Second, as is a constant refrain in the service and hospitality sector post-COVID, staffing remains a challenge at times. Third, we only serve beer from our corporate sponsors, which happen to be Highland and Budweiser.”
They have made changes for improved customer service, though, he said.
As far as the part about this fan being allowed to carry off just one beer at a time, Mark Combs, general manager of the Asheville ABC Board, said the Tar Heel state has endured some confusion on this matter.
Combs pointed me to House Bill 890, signed by Gov. Roy Cooper in September 2021 and passed into law. It repealed a previous law that made it illegal for a beer buyer to carry off two beers at once.
“It was indeed a pernicious little rule at one time; however, common sense prevailed in Raleigh and they repealed it,” Combs told me via email.
I guess the state was worried about folks two-fisting and getting hammered, which is really not a goal when you’re drinking $6 or $7 craft beers.
The current law does restrict mixed drinks to one per customer, but it allows an ABC permit holder to “sell and deliver” to a single patron, “Not more than two alcoholic beverage drinks at one time if the alcoholic beverage drinks” are a malt beverage, unfortified wine, or fortified wine.
I’ll note that every other brewpub I’ve visited of late (more than is seemly, I’ll note) now lets you carry off two beers at once. It sounds like UNCA is joining the crowd in this regard.
“We are now allowing two,” Strysick said Feb. 15.
Question: A couple of readers ask me why the Asheville Citizen Times is no longer allowing comments on their stories. I reached out to interim News Director Karen Chavez Feb. 9, but she didn’t respond. She did, however, address the issue on Feb. 15 on the newspaper’s website.
Coincidence, I’m sure.
At any rate, Chavez said the “view comments” button on Citizen Times stories disappeared in early February.
“While we continue to believe in the importance of reader engagement, the Citizen Times and other USA TODAY Network newsrooms have decided to move away from the comments feature due to changes in staffing and the time required to bring you a safe, moderated and productive discussion space,” Chavez wrote. “We’re no longer willing to risk discussions veering off track or people being verbally attacked.”
As someone who worked there for over two decades, I can tell you that comments could easily go off track.
The Poynter Institute, which tracks journalism trends, also noted in early February that Gannett, the corporate owner of the Citizen Times, had ended comments for most of its websites. Some larger sites, including the Detroit Free Press and the Cincinnati Enquirer, will keep comments, Poynter reported.
Poynter noted that “several outlets ran versions of a statement announcing the change.
“They explained that online comment spaces often ‘quickly devolve’ when left unmonitored, leading to off-topic discussions and verbal abuse,” Poynter reported. “In the past, Gannett has asked its journalists to help moderate these spaces, but that will no longer be possible due to ‘changes in staffing.’”
As Poynter also noted, Gannett has “undergone several rounds of layoffs in recent months,” including 400 staffers laid off in August, with another 400 open positions eliminated.
“Four months later in December, Gannett cut its news division by a further 6 percent, resulting in roughly 200 layoffs,” Poynter reported. “And just three weeks ago, the company executed another round of cuts affecting employees in Classifieds, Sales, Legals and Obituaries departments.”
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Got a question? Send it to John Boyle at firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-337-0941.
I’m curious how many people work at the ACT and where their offices are?
Not sure how many reporters work for ACT. Asheville Watchdog now has six, two paid and 4 volunteers.
Bang for the buck personified!
“changes in staffing.” Guess that’s one way to put it.
Yesterday the AC-T AnswerMan (AnswerPerson?) column in the print addition had John Boyles picture. I assume this was an editing mistake (maybe too many editors RIFed?). I could tell it wasn’t the real AnswerMan, since there was not humor whatsoever. Please tell me John Boyle remains as the watchdog and hasn’t had a humorectomy!
My Answer: The Citizen Times misses John so much that they couldn’t help but run his picture one more time.
Real Answer: The Citizen Times design crew based in Louisville, KY ran John’s photo in error.
Love going to UNCA basketball games, it’s a fun team and a really nice stadium for the size.
But the fan experience could use several upgrades… PA sound system; concessions (the staff is very friendly, but understaffed); more student seating; etc.
Apparently students have to pay for tickets? Wouldn’t you as a school want more fan (student) enthusiasm to help build home court advantage and fan enthusiasm?
The Citizen-Times isn’t as good without John Boyle.
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