FARGO – The company that owns West Acres Cinema here will again pitch its idea of allowing customers to enjoy alcohol while watching a movie.
Marcus Theatres is proposing a new class of liquor licenses for cinemas in front of the Liquor Control Board at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday.
A similar proposal from Marcus went before the board 18 months ago, but the company met stiff resistance from residents and city officials, including then Mayor Dennis Walaker. It voluntarily withdrew the proposal.
Since that time, the makeup of the five-member liquor board has changed with three new members.
City Commissioner Tony Gehrig, one of the new board members, said he hasn't reviewed the company's proposal, but "I'm much more open to ideas than people have been in the past." He said when he trained to be a pilot in Texas, going to the movies and having a meal and a drink was one of his favorite activities.
Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, another new board member, said he'd only agree to alcohol service in areas where only adults are allowed. West Acres Cinema could, for example, have separate entrances to auditoriums set aside for alcohol service, he said.
"If you go into a Disney movie, you don't want to encounter people serving alcohol," he said.
Marcus Theatres' latest proposal for its West Acres location is similar to the 2014 proposal.
The Milwaukee-based company would serve alcohol in two new areas: a pizzeria called Zaffiro's Express and a bar called the Take Five Lounge. Customers would be able to consume beer, wine and liquor throughout the 14-screen complex.
The company said in a filing with the liquor board that it has a lot of experience serving alcohol at more than a third of its 55 theaters around the country.
In Fargo as at these other theaters, ushers with "infrared glasses" would make sure only customers who are of age can drink and alcohol would be served in different colored cups, the company said.
New license class
A big difference from the previous proposal is the new class of liquor license.
In 2014, Marcus Theatres wanted an FA-Entertainment license aimed at entertainment venues that wish to serve food and alcohol, but it wanted a $90,000 discount on the initial fee. The company said it doesn't expect to sell enough alcohol to justify the usual $100,000 fee.
Bar owners had a lot of problems with that.
This time, Marcus Theatres is proposing an FA-Cinema license with a $50,000 fee.
A basic FA license is for restaurants with bars where alcohol sales make up no more than half of the gross receipts. The fee is $100,000. Other FA licenses such as FA-golf for club houses and FA-RZ for restaurants in the Renaissance Zone can be as low as $50,000.
Marcus Theatres' proposal also would require restrictions on advertising and limiting sales to two beverages at a time for each customer.
City Auditor Steve Sprague, a longtime liquor board member, said the company's attorney earlier asked him if it was worth another go. He said he told the attorney it can't hurt because the board's membership has changed.