The Telluride R-1 School District Board has voted, by a one-vote margin, to allow alcohol to be presented along with the performing arts at the Palm Theatre. With former Board President Jenny Patterson and Margaret Cruzzavala dissenting, the vote was 3-2 to create a nonprofit oversight organization to approve and apply for liquor-license applications for events in the school auditorium.
The Telluride Middle/High School auditorium, better known as the Michael Palm Theatre, doubles as a community performing-arts venue for everything from visiting dance and acrobatic troupes to live broadcasts from New York City’s Metropolitan Opera to full-on Telluride Repertory Theatre musical productions like this year’s sold-out Sound of Music to functioning as the town’s largest movie theater over Labor Day Weekend, when the world-renowned Telluride Film Festival comes to town.
A decade ago, when the Palm (and the school addition with which it shares its quarters) were still in the planning stages, Telluride voters approved an additional mil levy to upgrade the planned auditorium into a venue suitable for the performing arts. Private donors later stepped up with additional funding to ensure that the 650-seat auditorium was generously outfitted.
But with no liquor license, the Palm has not been used for such big-ticket Telluride region fundraising events as the Telluride AIDS Benefit, where the availability of alcohol facilitates, arguably, some of the hundreds of thousands of dollars TAB raises every year.
Telluride Town Councilmember Bob Saunders urged the board to vote against the change, voicing concern that the town is “trying to work cooperatively with the Town of Mountain Village” in terms of economic development, a cooperation potentially threatened by the Palm going up against Mountain Village’s Telluride Conference Center for bookings, if it were to add the possibility of obtaining a liquor license to its booking package.
When it came time to vote, Patterson voiced her opposition, declaring: “We don’t have near enough information” to vote on what is, ultimately, a decision regarding “is this best for our school and our children?”
Agreeing the decision before them was “awkward,” boardmember Davis Fansler (the former mayor of Mountain Village) pointed out, however, that by accepting funds from a consortium of arts-related organizations (and from individual devotees of the performing arts), “this school district is in the performing-arts business, whether we like it or not.”
Following the vote (with Fansler joined by and fellow boardmember Banks Brown and Board President Lynda Tueller in voting yes) Superintendent Mary Rubadeau observed: “One advantage of this is that many of our donors would rather donate to a nonprofit entity” than to the school, “so there is that advantage” in forming a nonprofit that will manage bookings requiring liquor at the Palm.