Wildwood Theaters 16’s general manager has asked for changes to the theater’s liquor license to allow for more revenue opportunities after the theater was closed for more than two months during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee will recommend that the city council extend the time alcohol sales are permitted at the theater, which was one of General Manager Sarah Lehr’s requests.
However, the committee will not recommend Lehr’s other request, which involves changing which auditoriums are approved for alcohol consumption. The five auditoriums near the cocktail lounge have that approval; Lehr wants the city to approve the five central auditoriums.
The city council could override the committee’s recommendations and allow both or no proposed changes.
The council approved a liquor license for the movie theater in January after months of discussion.
Lehr said the theater has not had a chance to use the license because construction on the bar was completed during closure. The theater has been closed since the governor issued a safer-at-home order March 25.
In its phased reopening plan, the Rock County Public Health Department recommends that movie theaters open at 25% capacity with additional cleanliness and safety provisions.
Lehr told the alcohol license committee Tuesday that she hopes to reopen June 19.
Theater closures have created significant financial challenges for the industry. AMC Theaters, one of the nation’s largest theater chains, filed for bankruptcy in April.
“As a local and privately owned business, we are trying to be optimistic on the impending future,” Lehr said in a letter to city council. “In order to do so, we need to take measures that will be effective and profitable.”
Lehr hopes extending the time of alcohol sales will allow for more sales.
The original liquor license dictated alcohol sales from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.
If approved by the council, the new sale hours would be 1 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Thursday and 11 a.m. to 1 a.m. Friday through Sunday.
Lehr also asked that the auditoriums that permit alcohol be changed from the five east auditoriums to the five or six central auditoriums—Nos. 1, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 16—with the elimination of Auditorium 11, if desired.
The theater has installed new leather reclining seats in the central auditoriums, Lehr said, which now have more seating than the originally approved auditoriums.
Residents voiced many concerns about the theater getting a liquor license while its seats and facilities were in poor condition, Lehr said.
Many of those concerns have been addressed, she said.
Committee member Mark Bumpus said he did not want to change the alcohol-permitted auditoriums because the original decision allowed consumption in the auditoriums closest to the bar, meaning less traffic near restricted areas.
Committee member Kevin Riley said he was comfortable changing the auditoriums but thought the sale times should remain the same.
The committee sided with Bumpus after Riley left the meeting early because of other obligations.
Several committee members said they had hoped to see the theater bar open for a while before making revisions to the license.
Milwaukee Grill also asked for changes to its liquor license Tuesday in an effort to make up for pandemic-related losses.
The committee will send a favorable recommendation to the city council to allow Milwaukee Grill to serve alcohol in a new outdoor waiting area.
In a letter to the committee, owner Mark Otis said he wanted to use the waiting area because restaurants are operating with restricted capacities in the pandemic.