Wildwood Movies 16 took a step closer to getting a liquor license Wednesday as the Janesville Alcohol License Advisory Committee forwarded a positive recommendation to the city council.
However, that recommendation came with conditions that could be removed in the future.
The positive recommendation was approved by a 4-0 vote with committee members Mark Bumpus and Ray Spade absent. The city council will decide whether to give final approval at an upcoming meeting.
Most of the conditions the committee required came from rules the movie theater’s manager, Sarah Lehr, provided to the committee.
Lehr proposed that alcohol be served in a cocktail lounge that would replace the existing arcade and that patrons be allowed to consume it in certain auditoriums.
The committee added a condition that alcohol consumption be restricted to the six auditoriums on the side of the theater nearest the lounge.
Other recommended conditions include:
- Limiting alcohol-related advertising to eligible auditoriums that are showing R-rated movies.
- Serving alcohol in designated cups that glow in the dark to show staff where alcohol is being consumed.
- Restricting alcohol sales to 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. Monday through Friday.
- Mandating the scanning of IDs at the lounge entrance.
- Clearly identifying which auditoriums allow alcohol and which do not.
Lehr also proposed these rules:
- Patrons must be 21 years old to enter the cocktail lounge and must show ID at the door and when buying alcohol.
- Customers may buy only one drink at a time.
- Wildwood Movies 16 must install additional security cameras.
Erin Davis, director of Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, was the only person to speak during a public hearing.
Davis said her organization is concerned about underage alcohol consumption and intoxicated driving. She recommended the theater serve only beer and wine, mandate that servers stay sober and limit alcohol advertising.
Committee Chairman Barry Badertscher commended Lehr for being thorough, and other members agreed that she was one of the best prepared applicants they had seen.
However, Badertscher expressed concern about introducing alcohol at a movie theater frequented by minors.
He said he has heard from residents that the theater is run-down, dirty and has broken seats. He said some believe Wildwood can’t be trusted with an alcohol license based on the theater’s condition.
Lehr replied that she has several maintenance projects in the works.
She said the company that sold seats to Wildwood declared bankruptcy before the theater could get its seats repaired. Wildwood is working to find a new seat vendor, Lehr said.
Committee member Kevin Riley said he had fewer concerns about Wildwood receiving a liquor license after seeing Lehr’s plans.
He suggested adding conditions to the license because serving alcohol in a movie theater is new to Janesville.
The closest theaters that sell alcohol are the Geneva Theater and Emagine Geneva Lakes, both in Lake Geneva, about 30 miles from Janesville.
The Madison and Milwaukee areas also have a handful of movie theaters that serve alcohol.
The village board in Machesney Park, Illinois, about 25 miles from Janesville, recently decided to allow movie theaters to apply for liquor licenses and is awaiting a license application from AMC Theaters.
Lehr said she hopes alcohol sales will keep the Janesville theater competitive, especially because the new owners of Beloit’s theater plan to make updates.
Lehr said she hopes the theater can start selling alcohol as soon as possible if the license is granted. The start date depends on the construction timetable for the lounge, she said.