City Council Considers Beer In Movie Theaters

Beer sales may be coming soon to a movie theater near you. The Chattanooga City Council was scheduled to vote on the matter this week, after deferring the vote a week due to sponsor Larry Grohn’s absence for the originally scheduled vote.

Beer sales are helping bolster movie concession sales elsewhere in the country, but opinions on the proposed expansion of such sales locally are mixed.

Beer sales are helping bolster movie concession sales elsewhere in the country, but opinions on the proposed expansion of such sales locally are mixed.

Regal Entertainment Group, which recently upgraded its movie theater near Hamilton Place mall, wants to put beer sales into the building, the city councilman said.

“As there’s Netflix and people are not going to theaters, they wanted to serve alcoholic beverages,” Grohn said about the Knoxville-headquartered theater chain that’s one of the nation’s largest operators.

In Chattanooga, the Carmike Cinemas’ Majestic movie house downtown now serves beer for one of its 12 screens under a measure approved years ago, he said.

But the new ordinance, which received approval from the council on first reading, would open up the possibility of beer consumption at the Regal and at other movie theaters in the city, said Grohn.

“With the business environment changing, movie theaters, like bowling alleys, are looking for a competitive advantage to attract customers,” Grohn said.

Not everyone is a fan. City Councilman Chip Henderson said he voted against the measure on first reading.

“I see a theater as being family-friendly,” Henderson said, adding that he doesn’t believe movie theaters are the place for beer consumption.

Chattanoogan James Davis, who recently caught a movie at the Regal with wife Lisa, said he thinks beer sales would be “a bad idea” at the theater.

He said that if younger people started drinking beer, a theater would have to increase its security.

Chris Johnson of Chattanooga said outside of the theater that he likes the idea of relaxing with a beer and a movie. But, he said, he’s not sure beer sales would work in every movie theater.

“I don’t foresee every theater could pull it off,” Johnson said.

Grohn said the original city rules dated back to 1968 and related to restricting alcohol consumption in adult movie theaters. The new ordinance would prohibit the sale of beer in a theater showing a movie with an “NC-17” rating.

Regal did not return telephone calls seeking comment, but the practice of serving beer in theaters is growing in other locations in the U.S.

According to industry watcher Cinemablend, Regal is seeing an increase in profits due to an uptick in concession stand sales as a result of offering alcoholic beverages and new menu options at some of its theaters.

Carmike Cinemas also has sought approval for alcohol sales in some of its theaters outside of Chattanooga to compete in the age of streaming video services.

If approved by the City Council, the Regal theater would have to get a beer permit and would fall under scrutiny of the city beer board, Grohn said.

Regal officials told him they would set up a separate designated area for beer sales in the theater, and such a location has already been built in the lobby of the theater. Also, special training would be needed for theater employees.

“They’d ID everybody,” said Grohn.

He said Regal may make beer buyers wear wristbands to make sure alcohol doesn’t get in the hands of minors. Grohn said he doesn’t have the impression that Regal is interested in serving liquor in the theater.

He said the city measure would take effect in two weeks if it’s passed.


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