March 25 2015

AMC Burlington Looking for Liquor License Rights

By: Rich Hosford

AMC Burlington Cinema 10 is hoping to soon be able to serve its adult patrons something extra: Alcohol. 

Representatives of AMC, Attorney Joseph Tarby of Murtha Cullina LLP in Woburn and AMC Senior Vice President of Food and Beverage George Patterson, were at the March 19 Planning Board meeting to discuss the first part of a zoning bylaw amendment proposal to address and define uses pertaining to theaters and cinemas. The petition had been put forward by Town Meeting member Sean Connors, who was not in attendance at the meeting. 

Tarby said that last year the cinema asked Building Inspector John Clancy to see if seating with a table insert could have the cinema classified as dinner seating but were told they could not. Now they are trying this track with the hopes of eventually getting permission to apply for a liquor license from the Board of Selectmen. 

Patterson 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. 

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

“The industry itself is changing,” Patterson said. “A guest expects a much better experience today.”


Patterson 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. 

The members of the Planning Board seemed mostly in favor of the proposal. There was some discussion on how to word the language to define “cinemas” and “theaters” so that it is balanced. They said they did not want to word the definition in such a way to exclude new, but smaller, theaters from having the same rights to apply for a liquor license but also didn’t want someone to be able to set up “four chairs and a screen” and try and legally sell alcohol. 

The public meeting was continued until the next meeting on Thursday, April 16. 

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