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Clifty Inn begins alcohol sales
as way to boost group event bookings

Groups previously had to hire
outside caterers to provide it

By Tess Worrell
Contributing Writer

(April 2012) – Weddings, family gatherings, business retreats – the planning can be a nightmare. Brides and business executives alike target venues that make preparation easier.
Clifty Inn, a state-owned park in Madison, Ind., in March took measures to make the venue fit this desire by becoming the second state park in Indiana to provide alcohol at special events.
“We want to do all we can to serve our customers,” said Karen Hinton, 45, General Manager of Clifty Inn and Restaurant. “This choice advances service another step.”

Karen Hinton

Karen Hinton

On March 13, Clifty Inn launched the new option at the Madison Area Chamber of Commerce Small Business Dinner. Clifty servers offered wines from Madison Vineyards along with a variety of beers to those attending. Hinton said she looks forward to making this service available to customers at future events.
Hinton noted that alcohol has always been available to customers who wanted this option for their weddings or meetings. However, customers had to hire an independent, licensed caterer to bring the beverages to Clifty. That often complicated the planning process.
Now customers deal directly with the Clifty Inn staff for the entire event. Hinton said she hopes this will ease the planning for clients and create a better experience for those attending. Convenience for the customer and control over the process constitute Hinton’s primary goals for moving Clifty Inn in this direction.
Jim Gurzynski echoed that sentiment. Gurzynski, General Manager of Fort Harrison State Park Inn and Golf Resort in Indianapolis, oversees the only other state park to currently offer alcohol to visitors.
“Getting control of alcohol as it is dispensed on state properties is the chief goal of moving inns in this direction,” he said.
He noted that in the past, when outside caterers controlled the process, Inn staff might notice a questionable practice, such as an under age person being served. Staff couldn’t do much about it, since the caterer was in control.
Now Inn staff ensure that an event taking place within Inn property is fully compliant with all safety precautions, he said.
Gurzynski says other Indiana state parks are moving in this direction precisely to ensure safety at all events.
Hinton said that Clifty Inn is aware of the responsibilities of taking on this role. All servers undergo training to ensure they understand the complexities of serving alcohol and are prepared to meet the challenges.
Gurzynski said that training takes places through the Indiana Restaurant Association and the Indiana Hotel and Lodging Association, both of which are headed by John Livengood. Livengood routinely works with excise police and appears before state regulatory agencies to ensure his training fully complies with current state laws. His programs educate staff to competently deal with all issues surrounding the sale and serving of alcohol to create a safe, pleasant atmosphere for all.
Will this option lead to more revenue for Clifty Inn? Hinton said that while this is not the primary goal, the option may mean more companies and families will book events at the Clifty Inn.
Jim Cooper, General Manager of Gen. Butler State Resort Park in Carrollton, Ky., has managed the recent implementation of alcohol sales at that park for those same reasons. He says that, while they are still in the early stages, more events have booked at the park due to customers’ desires to have this option.
Clifty Inn is not serving alcohol in its dining room under this policy. The new policy covers only special events, such as weddings, business meetings or family gatherings.
Gurzynski states that, while you can never say never, he doesn’t anticipate there ever being a bar in state parks. Parks desire simply to take the alcohol service already available and make it more convenient and more controlled.
Hinton said she looks forward to featuring wines and beers from local wineries and breweries. She sees Clifty Inn’s choice as an opportunity to promote local businesses to those using the park for retreats or weddings. As guests discover new favorites, servers can direct the guests to the appropriate business to stock up on their way home.
As Clifty Inn moves forward, other state parks will likely watch to see how well the facility transitions to this new policy. Hinton’s experience will set a course as other parks can follow, she said.

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