St. John’s University Begins Sale Of Alcoholic Beverages At Carnesecca Arena

St. John’s University is a dry campus, and students are prohibited from having alcohol on campus grounds. But that might be changing.

A refrigerator storing alcoholic beverages at Carnesecca Arena. Torch Photo / Sara Kiernan

The St. John’s University Athletic Department, in partnership with Chartwells Higher Ed, began selling alcoholic beverages at Carnesecca Arena on Nov. 17 — following a years-long effort by fans and students to bring alcohol to their on-campus arena.

“Chartwells, the University’s food services vendor, is offering beer and hard seltzer for sale in the concession stands in Carnesecca Arena,” said Sarah Jean Kelly, the University’s vice president for student success and retention strategy, in a statement to The Torch. “The alcoholic beverages are available for legal purchase by all guests over the age of 21, though under current policy, are prohibited in the Red Zone student seating area.” 

The alcoholic beverages are sold at stands directly inside the Carnesecca Arena lobby, and are not available at the arena’s other concession stands. Prices for the drinks range from $9 to $15, and there is a purchase limit of two beverages per purchase. 

The University is a dry campus, and students are not permitted to possess or consume alcohol within the Queens campus. Now, there is an exception for alcohol sold at Carnesecca Arena, but the University says the change is in compliance with its longstanding alcohol policy. Any student 21 or older can purchase alcoholic beverages sold by or authorized by the University, including those sold at Carnesecca Arena.

“The sale of alcoholic beverages in Carnesecca Arena is in accordance with existing University policy,” Kelly said, “since our existing policy permits alcohol consumption exclusively at authorized University-sponsored events on University premises.”

The Torch learned of the Athletic Department’s intent to sell alcohol at Carnesecca Arena days before the initiative took effect from sources familiar with conversations surrounding the change. The same people said that the University was considering modifications to its campus-wide alcohol policy. These accounts were later corroborated by the University.

“We will be evaluating our alcohol policy on campus in the months ahead to ensure that our policies provide for a safe campus environment that promotes the well-being of all students, fosters student engagement, and provides students with the opportunity to develop responsible practices and behaviors regarding alcohol consumption,” Kelly said. “We look forward to working with student leaders and other constituents throughout the University as we review and evaluate these policies.”

Kelly was appointed to her position in September 2022 following a six-year run as the assistant dean of graduate studies in the University’s School of Law. Since leading the University’s student success and retention department, which encompassess the Division of Student Affairs, the Freshman Center, and academic engagement and partnerships, Kelly has made an effort to be more in-tune with student requests. 

Last week, Kelly held a student listening session with Student Government, Inc. and University students, which was recounted in SGi’s latest assembly meeting.

Neither the University or the Athletic Department released official information regarding the sale of alcohol at Carnesecca Arena. For more information, view the University’s drug and alcohol policy.