PEORIA — City staff members have a long series of questions to answer ahead of a vote on whether to allow additional movie theaters in town to sell alcohol.
That was the result of an information-and-discussion-only first reading Tuesday night of a Peoria City Council ordinance that could allow pints of beer for sale near the popcorn.
The request comes as part of a growing trend in the country to allow the practice, which theaters seek as part of their goal "to attract the adult guests back to the theaters," AMC Theaters attorney Rob Anderson told the council
Theater representatives described to councilors strict practices for checking IDs of all patrons buying alcohol, having service limited to a set number of drinks per patron, serving in an area separate from the regular concessions, and other security precautions.
"We find it to be more cumbersome, but it protects our interests and our guests' interests," regional manager Heath Thomas said of the one-drink-one-ID policy that would be implemented at his company's GQH Willow Knolls 14 theater if the council allowed sales of beer, wine and liquor.
Strict security and compliance — including termination of employees deviating from policy — helps to discourage minors from getting hold of alcohol at theaters, Anderson suggested.
Movie theater pricing for concessions also serves to dissuade teens from attempting underage purchases, Anderson also stated.
And, he said, theater business practices suggest an inherent reason to ensure drinking doesn't get out of hand.
"The movie theater business is not one where we want people in our theaters to be rowdy," Anderson said. "It's in our best interest to make sure that we are responsible in the service of alcohol."
Both men suggested that their respective theater groups had met that criteria with such sales in other cities, inviting city police to check with their colleagues in those municipalities.
Liquor is already sold in at least one Peoria movie theater, with the Peoria Riverfront Museum allowed to sell under a license in a separate section of the liquor code.
Council members were not expected to make a decision Tuesday night, and are not likely to do so for several meetings.
Mayor Jim Ardis requested that the city liquor commission also weigh in with thoughts and questions, and city staff were given a lengthy list of questions by council members to get answers to.
Those include researching any complaints or concerns in communities around Illinois that already allow such sales, whether other problems have cropped up at separate, family-oriented businesses that serve alcohol, and input from the city Police Department.