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Booze at the Movies IV: The Prequel

The drama over having a drink at the movies puts Boise Classic Movies in the spotlight



This issue is yet another chapter of the seemingly-endless debate about mixing booze and movies in Idaho, so it's like a sequel. However, it pre-dates the 2016 controversy over serving alcohol at R-rated films and is tied to a 2006 rule prohibiting anyone under the age of 21 from entering a movie theater where booze is sold—making it more of a prequel.

"We're talking about Idaho Administrative Code 11.05.01, section 22," said Idaho State Police Captain Russ Wheatley, bureau chief of Alcohol Beverage Control, referring to the law passed by the 2006 Idaho Legislature banning movie theaters from selling beer or wine. "At the time, only a handful of movie theaters were grandfathered in, allowing them to continue selling alcohol."

Those theaters are The Flicks in Boise and The Magic Lantern in Ketchum. When the new Village Cinema in The Village at Meridian opened in 2013, developers opted to create an adults-only section where patrons can order beer, wine and cocktails. Village Cinema also successfully challenged a clause prohibiting any theater that screened more mature content—including The Flicks, Magic Lantern or Village Cinema—from serving alcohol. The clause was nullified by the 2016 Legislature.

"The reason the Village can continue selling alcohol is that they have an entirely separate entrance to the adults-only section," said Wheatley.

The lack of a which leaves venues such as The Egyptian Theatre high and quite dry.

"We sold beer and wine at Boise Classic Movies for the better part of our first four years," said Wyatt Werner, the man behind showing oldies-but-goodies at the downtown Boise theater. "But then, sometime last year, we were told that we could couldn't sell alcohol."

Destiny McGinley, event coordinator and box office manager at The Egyptian, said it's not the theater's rule. It's the law.

"Alcohol is a privilege, not a necessity," McGinley said. "The theater doesn't even have an alcohol license. It's something that is catered-out. As a result, the city of Boise and Alcohol Beverage Control both have to sign off on the permit."

Someone at the city questioning an adult-themed film Boise Classic Movies screened in 2016, contacted ABC and asked about the pending change in the obscenity clause. ABC said there was no problem with the adult nature of the film, but the phone call tipped off the division to Boise Classic Movies conducting alcohol sales—that triggered the new crackdown.

"In our entire history, we had zero complaints, and since we stopped selling beer and wine, our attendance has been slowly dropping," said Werner. "Now, I receive complaints before, during and after our movies from people who can't buy beer or wine."

As for the immediate future, McGinley said she has meetings with the city of Boise and ABC scheduled in the coming weeks. Werner wonders if the issue shouldn't be taken back to the Legislature for a new debate.

"We've got to get people talking about it," he said. "The Egyptian is primarily an event center and shouldn't be occasionally lumped into a movie theater category. Alcohol [is sold] during the other events. It's mind-boggling."


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