Movie Theatres & Alcohol Concession Menus
Posted: September 19, 2014
Since the Wisconsin Legislature passed a measaure allowing movie theatres to sell beer, liquor and wine to its customers in 2011, a number of cinemas throughout the state have opted to add alcoholic beverages to their concession menu. Many of the larger municipalities in the region, including Madison, Milwaukee and the Twin Cities, have been offering beer and wine with some operating full-service bars in their theatres.
This week's request from the owners of the Downtown Budget Cinema in Eau Claire to add wine and beer to its concession offering will be acted on by the Eau Claire City Council in early October. The City of Eau Claire License Review Committee this week had no objection to the proposal, however there will certainly be some obstacles for the owners to overcome if their request is approved.
Mike and Connie Olson, and their son, Dan, who own Micon Cinemas in Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire, are the principal owners of the Downtown Budget Cinema. Even though they anticipate making a major overhaul of their antiquated building, which includes downsizing the number of theatre seats from nearly 200 to 100, there will likely be concern from the city council that alcohol could be served in an area that caters to underage drinkers.
The Olsons, who are good community citizens, plan to have a separate area in their two downtown theatres so those who don't wish to eat and drink can sit in a different section. Bottles of beer and/or wine will be served only at the concession stand and those who are served alcohol will be required to wear wristbands.
But the issue of whether alcohol will be too accessible to minors will certainly be an issue when it comes before the city council. Although the Olsons plan to have ushers who are licensed to serve alcohol monitor beer and wine use within their cinema, there is the chance that the city council will ask the owners to have a full-time worker inside the theatre at all times.
The Olsons are hoping to invest more than $100,000 on two digital projectors to keep up with the modern film industry. Other amenities, including restrooms on the first floor and a small kitchen, could be added to allow for the sale of frozen pizzas and microwaveable sandwiches.
I believe that the Budget Cinema can continue to be a destination place as part of the revitalization of downtown Eau Claire. It makes sense to allow the theatre owners to do what they can to make sure they can be a part of the renewal of downtown for years to come.