Propelled by strong alcohol and food sales, the Northwest Georgia Trade and Convention Center set a record for monthly revenue in September, officials said Wednesday.

The trade center reported $178,712 in total revenue in September, almost $42,000 more than the previous monthly record, which was set in February of this year.

Food and beverage sales accounted for more than half of all revenue, and alcohol alone brought in $27,437.

The trade center brought food and alcohol sales in house earlier this year.

“The one central message I want to get across is the absolute shattering of trade center revenue records,” executive director Rick Tanner told trade center authority members.

The trade center also saw $199,980 in total operating costs for September, leaving it with an operating loss of $21,108 for the month. But Tanner told authority members that number is a little misleading since September had three pay periods for employees instead of the normal two.

“Had September been a normal month, we would have had a profit of over $25,000,” he said.

Tanner said monthly operating losses averaged approximately $105,000 in 2003, the year before he became executive director.

The trade center held 69 events in September, up from 54 in the same month last year and 48 in 2004. Total monthly attendance for those events was 12,213.

“A large part of the credit goes to our Hispanic events. We had two large concerts that were very successful,” Tanner said.

The trade center has had a string of record revenue months this year, since bringing food services in house and acquiring its own pouring license for alcohol.

In August, for instance, it reported $122,718 in revenue, almost double the previous revenue record for that month.

Tanner says he hasn’t seen any impact from a boycott of the trade center called for by some who oppose his support for a November ballot referendum that would legalize the sale of alcohol by the drink in Dalton restaurants on Sunday. Tanner says Sunday sales are vital to attracting a developer to build a hotel next to the trade center and having a hotel there is key to making the trade center self-supporting.

“Certainly in terms of public events, (the boycott) doesn’t seem to have affected attendance,” Tanner said.

Tanner said some 3,000 people, for instance, attended a one-day circus hosted by the trade center last week.

He said the trade center is on target to come in at or below the $529,041 operating loss forecast in the 2006 budget.

Some authority members expressed hope the operating loss would be under $500,000. Tanner said that is possible, but he doesn’t think it is likely.

To match the operating loss forecast in the budget, the trade center would have to have an average loss of approximately $34,000 in the final three months of the year, about $10,000 more than the operating losses of August and September. To break under $500,000, the average loss for the final three months would have to be approximately $24,000.

Tanner said December costs are typically higher than those of the preceding three months, since employees can choose to have their unused vacation time bought back by the trade center.

“If they have five unused vacation days, they can essentially trade them in for another week’s pay,” Tanner said.

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