A battle is brewing at the Alamo over whether alcohol should be allowed at catered events.
The state legislature transferred control of the Alamo to the General Land Office from the Daughters of the Republic of Texas last September. The GLO, under Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson, will allow caterers to serve alcohol at events held at Alamo Hall and the adjoining patio beginning on July 31.
Alamo Hall, where receptions are held, is a former fire station built in 1922. It sits outside the perimeter of the 1836 Alamo compound, Patterson explained as he traveled down to San Antonio to speak about the issue at the Alamo Friday afternoon. Alamo Hall became part of the Alamo Complex in 1937, when the city of San Antonio gave it to the state.
"We're renting the hall to catered events, and those catered events can now serve alcohol," Patterson told the TM Daily Post. Military and historical groups most often book events in the hall.
Money raised from the receptions will go to the Alamo. The decision "is about attracting more people to the Alamo who can enjoy and participate in the awe that is present every time you go there," Patterson said.
Patterson also wanted to correct some inaccurate information floating around about the decision. "I've gotten a lot of emails from people who think we're selling beer in the chapel," he said.
Patterson stressed that he did not view serving alcohol to be "irreverent" to the lives lost. "They serve alcohol on the Battleship Missouri overlooking [Pearl Harbor]," Patterson, a Marine and Vietnam veteran, said. "If a bunch of WWII vets wanted to stand on the deck on the Missouri and give a toast I don't see a damn thing wrong with that."
And, he pointed out, restaurant and bar Pat O'Brien's is closer to the North Wall of the 1836 Alamo than the reception hall is.
Lee White, president of the Alamo Defenders' Descendants Association , took issue with Patterson's argument that it is okay to serve alcohol at Alamo Hall because it is outside the 1836 fort. "Plenty of soldados died there," she said . "This is straight up desecration of a sacred site."
"We feel like the State of Texas is pimping out the Alamo," continued White, who is descended from Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man at the Alamo. "We would like to see the Alamo treated like the sacred ground that it is. Over 600 people died on that site. ... This is not a party house and it should not be the latest San Antonio party venue."
White also worried that this decision could be a slippery slope into "alcohol-fueled disaster." "My question is, where are their boundaries? Are there going to be dinner parties inside the Alamo itself? Will it turn into a wedding venue?" White wondered.
A story on the issue ran in the Friday edition of the San Antonio Express-News with the headline "Hold the 'hooch' at the Alamo, DRT says."
DRT president Karen Thompson told the Express-News's Scott Huddleston paper the group was not in favor of the decision. “We recognize that they can do it, but we oppose it at this time,” Thompson said.
Steve Oswald, the GLO's state director of the Alamo, told Huddleston that this issue is as old as the battle itself. "Alamo commander Lt. Col. William B. Travis was a teetotaler, though many of the defenders drank heavily," Huddleston wrote.
“We're still having that argument, whether or not there should be alcohol at the Alamo,” Oswald said.