May 14 2015

Town Meeting to Vote on Bylaw Change that Would Allow Alcohol Sales at Theaters and Cinemas

By: Rich Hosford

Burlington Town Meeting, which is set to continue on Monday, May 18, will decide whether or not Burlington theaters and cinemas will have the right to sell alcohol. 


The proposal to amend zoning bylaws related to the definition of theaters and cinemas was put forward by Town Meeting member Sean Connors, ostensibly on behalf of AMC Entertainment Inc., which has been appearing before the Planning Board to lobby for the changes that would allow them to sell alcohol at the AMC Burlington Cinema 10 at its South Avenue location off of Middlesex Turnpike. 


The Planning Board held a public hearing on the zoning bylaw language change and during its latest meeting voted unanimously to approve it. 

AMC representatives had come up with a language change that would update the definition of theaters and cinemas and allow them to apply for liquor licenses, but some members of the board felt that language would limit smaller establishments to meet its definition and do business in town. That was not the intention. 


There was also concerned raised at a previous meeting that if the language was too expansive it might allow someone to set up a couple of chairs in front of a screen, call it a theater, and apply for a liquor license. 


The new language stipulates that movie theaters and cinemas shall be a facility regularly used to show motion pictures, live broadcasts or similar performances to the general public, according to Food may be provided for consumption on the premises, including alcohol. If alcohol sale on the premises is allowed by the Board of Selectmen, it cannot exceed 25 percent of the establishment’s gross revenue. 


The Town Meeting warrant article proposing the language change is numer 26, the last in the packet. 


At a previous board meeting, AMC Senior Vice President of Food and Beverage George Patterson said selling alcohol at theaters is part of the business in this day and age. 


He said the cinema industry has changed recently, and AMC along with it. Now they cater to an older clientele with amenities like larger, reclining chairs, upgraded food and reserve seating. He said that for 25 years the industry had lost the adult client but now people over 21 years of age make up 70 percent of moviegoers. 

Patterson added that one thing customers like to go with the other amenities is the ability to purchase a beer or glass of wine. 

He said that alcohol is served in just over 100 of the AMC locations nationwide. Most of the theaters have a bar, called MacGuffins, that handles the alcohol sales away from the other concessions. 


He also addressed some alcohol safety concerns. First, he said that all AMC employees who will be serving alcohol will be TIPS certified and that only employees over 21 years of age will be able to sell or serve alcohol. 

Further, all customers will be carded and they will only be able to purchase one drink at a time, cutting down on the passing of drinks to others. Also, only customers with tickets will be able to purchase drinks – the bar is not meant as a hangout for people not there to see a movie. 

Patterson said that AMC also does its own internal mystery shoppers to ensure employee compliance and that any employee caught failing to check identification will be fired. 


He said that in all of its locations that sell alcohol no AMC cinema has ever had its liquor license revoked. 

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