Oklahoma City University officials are backing off a controversial plan that would have put a restaurant on university-owned land near campus.
The OCU Board of Trustees executive committee voted to instruct administrators to sell a parcel of land at NW 23 and Virginia Avenue.
Officials had planned to lease the building to Sodexo, the university's food service vendor, to open a restaurant called Rehearsals. Sodexo had planned to serve beer and wine at the restaurant. The sale comes in response to concerns about the sale of alcohol under a previous plan, said OCU spokeswoman Sandy Pantlik.
The building, which previously housed the university's Bluetique resale shop, is about a block west of the main campus. OCU is a dry campus, but the prohibition on alcohol wouldn't have extended to the restaurant, Pantlik said.
Robert Hayes Jr., bishop of the Oklahoma United Methodist Conference, said he doesn't think it would be appropriate for a United Methodist university to be tied to an establishment that serves alcohol. The Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church encourages abstinence from alcohol and illegal drugs.
Hayes, a member of OCU's Board of Trustees, said the university's involvement with the restaurant sends the wrong message to students and to people outside the OCU and United Methodist communities. The location was also a cause for concern, Hayes said.
“The proximity of it gave me great reservation,” he said.
Selling the land is a good compromise, Hayes said, because it prevents the university from being connected with the sale of alcohol while still allowing the land to be developed.
Mariah Robinson, a sophomore from Midwest City, said she didn't think the university's connection to the restaurant would have presented a problem. Most of the students don't think of the land as a part of the main campus, she said.
OCU Trustees Chairman Ron Norick said he isn't opposed to the sale of beer and wine, but he didn't think the restaurant was a good fit.
Whether the university had profited from sales of beer and wine at Rehearsals or not, revenue from the restaurant would have accounted for an almost inconsequential piece of the university's budget, Norick said.
Norick, the former mayor of Oklahoma City, said it makes more practical sense for the university to sell the building and avoid questions about the sale of alcohol.
Although the property is near campus, a few privately-owned lots sit between the site and the western edge of campus. The only way the university could expect to make good use of the property is if officials bought the entire block along NW 23. “That's pretty far-fetched,” Norick said. “I don't see how we would ever use that piece of property.”