Janesville’s Alcohol License Advisory Committee recommends the city council allow movie theaters to apply for liquor licenses.
The recommendation moves forward an effort by Sarah Lehr, general manager of Wildwood Theatres Movies 16, to sell alcoholic beverages in the city’s sole movie theater.
The committee Tuesday did not discuss specifics of how alcohol would be served at Wildwood. Those details would be hashed out when the theater applies for a liquor license, which it can’t do under the current ordinance.
City council members Sue Conley and Doug Marklein co-sponsored an amended ordinance that would allow movie theaters to apply for the city’s $10,000 Class B Reserve liquor license. The city council sent the issue to the committee for discussion.
Janesville Clerk-Treasurer Dave Godek on Tuesday said eight of Janesville’s peer cities allow movie theaters to apply for liquor licenses. Beloit is the only peer city with a movie theater that does not allow such businesses to have liquor licenses, he said.
Committee Chairman Barry Badertscher said changing the ordinance might make a difference if another movie theater wanted to come to Janesville.
Badertscher said he thinks serving alcohol can be a good revenue-generator for theaters.
The committee would be as “tough” on a movie theater applicant as it is on any other establishment applying for a liquor license, he said.
The alcohol committee would vet the movie theater’s application thoroughly and impose restrictions, Badertscher said.
Local theater staff has worked on plans to regulate alcohol in the theater if a liquor license is granted.
Lehr said she has discussed safety with Police Chief Dave Moore, who has given the theater verbal support to pursue the license.
Erin Davis, director of Janesville Mobilizing 4 Change, said the organization is concerned alcohol could be easily passed around and consumed by youths in dark theaters.
Davis suggested restrictions for the committee to consider if the movie theater applies for a liquor license. They include limiting alcohol sales to the lobby area, serving alcohol only in PG-13 or R-rated movies, allowing patrons to buy only one drink at a time, and subjecting the theater to regular alcohol compliance checks.
Davis said a representative from a Milwaukee health coalition told her the coalition has not had any trouble with movie theater compliance with alcohol laws.