Alcohol sales for events at the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center are already paying dividends and, with the opening in the coming weeks of a bar and storage area, those additional revenues are only expected to rise.
During the 2012-13 budget, the Sampson County Board of Commissioners approved implementing alcohol beverage services at the Expo Center, expending $30,190 to provide secured storage and refrigeration necessary to those sales. At that time, the center’s director, Ray Jordan, said the full economic impact would not be felt for approximately 16-18 months, during which time prior contracts still permitted clients to bring their own alcoholic beverages into the facility.
In February 2013, the first alcoholic beverage service was provided to rental clients, which requires detailed regular reporting to the N.C. Alcohol Beverage Control Commission. From February through the rest of the fiscal year to June 30, 2013, the Expo Center provided the service to 14 clients.
Through all of 2013, the Expo Center offered the service to 30 rental clients. In addition, there were approximately eight organizations that paid the required “corkage fee,” allowing them (that is allowed only by non-profits) to provide their own beverages to their guests.
During this period, income from sales was approximately $50,724.86, with purchases of product tallying $21,257.41. The net profit, before labor and other costs, was $29,467.45.
A year after those sales were implemented, Jordan said the prospect for more revenue down the line was very promising
“We have not operated under a full (fiscal) year of bar service yet,” Jordan noted.
He pointed to early “positive” returns in terms of increased revenue — and jobs able to be created.
“As important as the revenue stream that is coming is the fact that we put eight people to work. As a result of the alcoholic beverage services being implemented, the Exposition Center has provided eight residents of Sampson County with part-time work as bartenders, bar wait staff and cashiers,” Jordan remarked, noting that the cost associated with the increase in staff has been fully funded through sales, not the Expo Center’s general budget or county contributions.
“It’s all paid for by the service we provide,” he noted.
And those revenues are anticipated to rise.
“I’m very confident as we continue through (fiscal year) 2013-14, sales will increase as a result of clients no longer being able to provide their own alcoholic beverages. I know we’re going to exceed our budgeted amounts,” Jordan stated, pointing again to those expiring contracts for providing the service.
He credited the county board for its inclusion of a permanent bar/concession area as part of the 2013-14 budget approval last summer. The bar in the lobby of Prestage Hall recently had a soft opening and should be fully operational by mid-March, the Expo Center director noted.
Jordan said that bar would offer a “significant savings” in labor costs.
“The improvement to the facility is projected to reduce the labor costs associated with bar service. You’d be surprised how much time it takes to set up and tear down a (portable) bar given how you have to secure and inventory everything they receive,” he said. “This will also allow for additional secured storage of bar-related items. The investment will significantly provide a positive impact on future revenues and will provide additional security for bar staff as the new bar is more secure.”
The bar is expected to be officially unveiled at the Clinton-Sampson Chamber of Commerce “Business After Hours” on Tuesday, March 4.
“This will help us a lot,” said Jordan. “It’s coming along nicely.”
‘Center of activity’
It will also build on the success the Expo Center has seen, while providing a few extra dollars for county projects.
When the Sampson County Agri-Exposition Center was officially opened in 1998, the tagline “The Center of Activity” was coined. Jordan said it is evident that moniker has held true over the years.
In the roughly 15 years since the Expo Center opened up until Dec. 30, 2013, there have been 5,568 events held, ranging from family reunions, wedding receptions, fundraising events, training seminars and a slew of regular annual events, with total attendance over 1 million people. Average annual attendance at those events is about 65,000.
Strong local partnerships and regular events have brought several thousand people to the facility on a monthly basis. And with that traffic — the center also serves as a hub for the Chamber and the Sampson County Convention and Visitors Bureau — the Expo Center has its fair share of upkeep.
“Having been there since the doors were opened, the public’s care of the space is not what it was 10 years ago. It just requires more cleaning … it’s all they can do to keep up with it,” said Jordan. In addition to regular maintenance, needed upgrades to the lights, sound system, kitchen, restrooms and parking lot top capital needs at the facility.
Jordan lauded the board and the county’s managerial staff for its support over the years, notably the roughly $30,000 for the bar/storage addition that is now coming to fruition, and said the Expo Center staff would continue striving to provide the best event venue in the county.
“The Sampson County Exposition Center and its staff are dedicated to maintaining and operating a facility and protecting the grounds in a manner that will continue to protect Sampson County’s investment,” said Jordan, “an investment that has certainly provided great benefit to the citizens of Sampson County.”
Chris Berendt can be reached at 910-592-8137 ext. 121 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.