B.C. allows alcohol in movie theatres

Energy Minister Rich Coleman - Black Press
Energy Minister Rich Coleman
— image credit: Black Press

VICTORIA – The B.C. government has created a new liquor licence that allows theatres to serve alcohol during movie showings.

Rich Coleman, the cabinet minister responsible for B.C. liquor and gambling policy, says the change will get rid of red tape for theatres that could get a licence to serve alcohol for live events, but couldn't show movies in the same place.

The new licence will allow theatres to serve drinks in the lobby, but patrons won't be able to take drinks to their movie seat unless the room is adults-only. Coleman said unlike the stands at a hockey game or out in a well-lit lobby, it's difficult for operators to see if minors are sneaking drinks in a dark theatre.

A multiplex cinema now has the option of designating one theatre for adults only and serving drinks, an approach that has caught on in other jurisdictions along with larger seats and tables. The licence would also cover an adults-only lounge adjacent to the theatre.

Other theatres that have live shows will be able to take part in film festivals without having to close their bar or apply for a new licence.

"People are trying to save the older theatres, where it's just a single-screen operation, and trying to have two types of business in order to basically survive and make those older traditional heritage-type theatres work," Coleman said.

Ontario, Alberta and Manitoba already have similar licences for movie theatres. Jeremy Bator, president of the Motion Picture Theatre Association of B.C., praised the move.

"These changes will have a positive impact on so many levels, including increased jobs, a better guest experience and a more level playing field in the increasingly competitive landscape of entertainment in Canada," Bator said.

Matthew Gibbons, president of the Vogue Theatre in Vancouver, said his heritage theatre is now mainly a live performance venue, and the new licence will make it easier to take part in the annual Vancouver International Film Festival.

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