I had a story in Avenue Edmonton magazine recently that I’ve been meaning to share here: an inside look at the Citadel sippy!
I took a break from seeing theatre for most of 2018 and early 2019 due to being pregnant/having a baby. When I saw my first Citadel show after that break (The Color Purple in September 2019), I noticed a huge line up of people waiting at the bar only a couple minutes before the show started. I wondered what was going on – was everyone really going to chug their drinks with only a minute to spare?
Then I saw that the drinks were being served in these little plastic sippy cups. Intrigued, I ordered a drink at intermission and marveled at how I was able to sip my wine during the show instead of frantically downing it during intermission while also managing to squeeze in a bathroom break. How very civilized!
The story in Avenue is a pretty simple profile of the sippy cup, featuring an interview with Citadel executive director Chantell Ghosh. She explains why the Citadel brought them in and the feedback from patrons.
I wanted to explore the topic of theatre drinks and bar sales in more depth, but unfortunately I came up dry. The Citadel was unable/unwilling to share any quantifiable numbers with me. I asked if they saw an increase in bar sales after they introduced the sippy, but they don’t have the data to verify or refute this: the Citadel took over their bar operation in the fall of 2018 at the same time that they introduced the sippy cup. Prior to this, a third party ran the theatre’s bar program. So, they can’t say for sure if sales increased or not. I’d be pretty shocked if they hadn’t seen an increase in bar sales since then, however – after all, the sippy cups mean you can now drink in the theatre during the show, which will undoubtedly entice more people to grab a beverage or two. (It certainly worked for me.)
This led me to thinking about drinks at other theatres in town. Many other theatres have already been allowing drinks during the show – the Varscona, the Arts Barns, the Roxy – actually, most theatres have allowed drinks for years; the Citadel was the last major and notable holdout.
Then I started to wonder just how important bar sales are to shows. I’d be surprised if any shows were really banking on this as a source of revenue since it would be so variable, but I bet it makes a fairly decent chunk of cash for most shows. I haven’t been able to get any further info, however – in part because most are unwilling to release any info like this, and also because I didn’t push the matter very hard aside from a couple casual inquiries (which turned up nothing/were ignored). In the future I may revisit this subject in more depth but for now you’ll have to be satisfied with the puff piece in Avenue.