Opening doors by open bars: Prince Conference Center hopes allowing alcohol vendors appeals to customers


Naomi Vroegop

This is a front view of the Prince Conference Center.

Since the board of trustees voted to allow serving alcohol in the Prince Conference Center last October, seven meeting and conference events have taken advantage of the service. Scott VanDeraa, director of hospitality operations, stated that “it is still early to tell if the change will have a significant impact, but we believe that it will help to expose new guests to the amazing food and services provided at the Prince Conference Center.” 

Last November, making the conference center more appealing to wedding receptions seemed to be one of the main reasons for the change. Despite the seven conference events that served alcohol, as of yet, no wedding receptions have served alcohol at the Prince Conference Center. However, VanDeraa says that receptions are typically booked 12-18 months in advance. As such, it remains to be seen whether the decision to allow alcohol vendors will increase bookings for wedding receptions in the coming year. 

The conference center is not a licensed vendor; therefore, alcohol is served only by third-party vendors approved by the university administration. No cash sales are allowed. The board’s intent in allowing alcohol to be served was to increase bookings and make the conference center more competitive with other venues, not to profit from alcohol sales. 

This decision was one of many ideas for increasing revenue through alternative sources. The conference center operates as an auxiliary service to the university and consistently produces positive revenue. The majority of events held at the Prince Conference Center are for non-profit organizations and groups affiliated with Calvin University. According to previous Chimes reporting, Calvin made clear at the time of the decision that no university operational funds will be put towards the purchase of alcohol. 

Currently, the Prince Conference Center is working to revise menus and offerings for banquets and events. Prince Conference Center staff also stated that they hope to see updates to the building itself in coming years, as furnishings and decorations are beginning to age in comparison to other conference centers.