Beer could be added to the menu of the concession stand at your local movie theater if Olympia lawmakers approve a bill that would allow theaters to serve beer and wine for patrons ages 21 and over.
“I think it’s a great idea,” says Alpine Theatre and Auto Vue Drive-In owner Steve Wisner. “It just makes sense. States like Oregon have done this for a while now, and it works just fine. It’s small business friendly.”
House Bill 1001, if approved, would create a liquor license for theaters where movies or performances such as dances or plays are held. Supporters say the legislation would help independent, locally-owned theaters compete with corporately owned large chain multiplexes. Representative Jim Moeller (D) introduced the bill.
“There are a lot of small-town theaters around the state that have been in their respective communities a long time,” says Wisner. “This is a bill that actually helps small businesses. We can do lip service to that, or we can actually put our money where our mouth is.”
The cost of the license under the new legislation is $400 a year to serve beer and wine, with no stipulations to serve food.
Theaters submit a
‘Liquor Control Plan’
Smaller theaters have experienced numerous challenges over the past several years, explained Wisner, especially with the change over to high-quality digital projection from film and the costs of bringing blockbuster, first run movies to show in a single screen venue.
Being able to serve beer and wine to patrons ages 21 and up would provide another source of revenue.
Some multiplexes in the state are able to serve liquor because they also offer meals, qualifying them as restaurants. Smaller theaters like the Alpine in Colville and the NuVu in Metaline Falls don’t have room for a full kitchen and dining area.
The bill would also require theaters to submit a “liquor control plan” to the Washington State Liquor Control Board (WSLCB) detailing how they plan to keep liquor out of the hands of minors.
Wisner says that employees would have to acquire alcohol-server training permits.
“People try to sneak alcohol into the drive-in during the summer all the time,” Wisner said. “We’re not unfamiliar with the concept.”
Wisner added that, if the law passes, the Alpine will most likely only serve beer and wine at PG-13 and/or R rated movies.
“This isn’t an opportunity for an adult to bring the kids to a G or PG rated movie and have several beers because they are bored,” says Wisner.
The bill was passed unanimously on Jan. 29, and will now go to the House Rules Committee, which could schedule it for a floor vote or direct it to another committee for additional consideration.