Lubrication license sought

Science museum pursues liquor permit to host more parties

Stan Crapo pours a glass of wine for Pat Kinnaird during a fundraiser at Durango Discovery Museum. The museum is pursuing a liquor license to hold more events and increase revenue. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

Stan Crapo pours a glass of wine for Pat Kinnaird during a fundraiser at Durango Discovery Museum. The museum is pursuing a liquor license to hold more events and increase revenue.

Scientists with uninhibited passions for a good time are credited with making the big breakthroughs in quantum information theory, according to David Kaiser’s 2011 book How the Hippies Saved Physics.

Somewhat similarly, the local science museum has found great support from those who enjoy a drink now and then.

So much so that the city’s quota of 15 special events per year is no longer sufficient to slake the thirst for a sip of beer or wine on the grounds of the Durango Discovery Museum.

Discovery is pursuing a full-time liquor license to host more parties at the Mission-style brick building built in 1893, formerly a power plant. The request will have to come before the Local Licensing Authority, but a hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Museum officials do not want to get into the business of opening a regular bar, but would like the flexibility to host more special events.

It’s the big-bash theory of fundraising.

“After a full summer season, we’ve really seen the opportunity,” said Ashley Hein, the museum’s events manager. “People have enjoyed the venue.”

Once the museum closes at 5 p.m. for visitors, it becomes available for private functions such as wedding rehearsal parties, family reunions or fundraising galas.

Because the museum can make different spaces available for rent, such as the auditorium, the lab in the education building and the outdoor plaza, there is some flexibility with scheduling, but an event with alcohol would never take place in the main building during regular business hours, Hein said.

The exhibit hall is reserved for the museum’s own parties and private functions, Hein said. The atmosphere of the industrial building makes it fun a place for adults wanting to get their geek on.

On Oct. 6, the museum will host its own cocktail-party fundraiser called “Robot Rumpus 2.0,” in which adults are encouraged to come dressed as robots, Hein said. A robot mixologist called Benny the Booze Organ will prepare the drinks.

Soon visitors could be learning about more than just science.

When told about Discovery’s plans, Alan Cuenca, proprietor of Put a Cork In It wine store, 121 East 10th St., said Durango could use some more venues.

“I’m always looking for a venue to teach wine classes,” Cuenca said.

Tim Walsworth, the president and chief executive officer of United Way of Southwest Colorado, wonders if the museum might be a more comfortable location for the San Juan Brewfest, a microbrew tasting benefit for the United Way previously hosted on Main Avenue in the summer.

Walsworth thinks the museum has a “great location” downtown that is accessible by the Animas River Trail. Parking is always an issue downtown, but it’s less of a problem if events are after 5 p.m.

“You always hear that mantra: location, location, location,” he said. “It applies to fundraisers, too.”

Walsworth thinks it’s smart business strategy for the museum to diversify its revenue streams.

Alcohol can be handled if precautions are taken, such as using experienced servers, Walsworth said.

It always helps the fundraising if the donors are happy.

If a fundraiser is going to have a silent auction, for example, alcohol is “good for priming the pump,” he said.

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