Lynwood theater may have beer, wine option

A recently proposed bill in the State House of Representatives, if passed, will give small theaters the option to obtain a license to serve beer and wine.

Bainbridge’s own Lynwood Theatre is exactly the type of theater characterized in the bill and could be effected by the legislation should its owners opt to explore the beer and wine option.

“(The bill) says that if you have a license you can sell beer and wine and bring it into the theater, even if you have those who are underage,” said Jeff Brein of Far Away Entertain, which owns the Lynwood Theater.

“If we ever were to do it, we would limit it to night time only and there would probably be certain shows where we would not serve beer and wine at all because we would be showing something where there would be kids in the theater,” Brein said.

The bill is championed by Rep. Jim Moeller (D-49th District, Vancouver). It would add a new form of licensing to allow theaters the option of offering beer and wine without restricting the audience to those above the age of 21.

According to Moeller, the bill is aimed to help historic single-screen theaters.

A license would only cover a single screen so if a multiplex theater wanted to participate, only one screen would be allowed to  serve beer and wine.

“Previously (theaters) would have to be considered a tavern, which would exclude minors,” Moeller said. “But these are not taverns they’re theaters!”

Moeller said that the idea for the bill began when he was approached by the owner of the Kiggins Theater in Vancouver. Having the option to sell beer and wine would help theaters like the Kiggins compete.

Moeller noted that across the Columbia River in Oregon, theaters such as the McMenamins chain have been selling beer and wine with little, if any, problems for years.

“One of the concerns has been how you keep beer and wine out of the hands of minors,” Moeller said. “Oregon has done this for years and they’ve been very successful. They card them, or stamp them, or give them a bracelet, and they make sure that minors don’t have access (to beer and wine).”

The license would cost theater owners $200 to serve beer or wine, or $400 to serve both.

The new license would also require theaters to submit a minor control plan to the State Liquor Control Board.

The minor control plan is intended to show how theaters would prevent minors from obtaining alcohol and minimizing their exposure.

According to Brein, however, it’s still not so simple.

“The simple fact that the law would let us put beer and wine in the theater doesn’t mean we would do it,” Brein said. “It’s just out of respect of those who wouldn’t appreciate it.”

Currently, theaters in Washington have the option to offer beer and wine at their establishments, though they would then be required to restrict viewings to strictly ages 21 and older.

Brein said that such restrictions are more trouble than they are worth and the Lynwood isn’t set up for separate sections for 21-and-older crowds.

Far Away Entertainment also owns the Admiral Theater in Seattle, where beer and wine is served outside the theater but alcoholic beverages are not allowed in the theater during viewings.

This allows them to keep minors and 21-and-older crowds separate.

Brein noted that while some may appreciate beer and wine at a movie, not all patrons would support having the option.

He stressed that input from customers is highly valued and he would like to hear what movie viewers think on the matter before making any decision.

“We have a very long-time loyal customers at (the Lynwood Theatre) who are not bashful about telling us what they like and what they don’t like,” Brein said. “We really pay attention to the input of our customers because that’s our lifeline…if they want us to try something like this, we will. But if not, then we won’t.”

Whatever future decision the theatre may make, Brein said customers still have options.

“We have the Treehouse next door where you can get all the beer and wine that you want,” Brein said. “…I don’t want to compete against the Treehouse. Our business is showing movies.”

While Brein maintains that he will ultimately serve what his customers want, he doesn’t believe that beer and wine sales will add anything to the business.

“I’m going to make more off of a large Diet Pepsi than off of a glass of wine. We aren’t going to be selling beer and wine and making a ton of money,” Brein said. “At the end of the day, we could take it or leave it. I’d rather sell Pepsi than a Rosé.”

The bill was first submitted in January and is currently making its way through committees in the state senate.


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