Members of the Liquor Commission as well as city of Naperville staff will spend the next month looking into a proposal that would allow the AMC Showplace Naperville 16 movie theaters to serve liquor.
The proposal would see a full service bar at the theater, similar to ones the theater group has utilized at its facilities throughout the country.
According to Noel MacDonald, vice president of food and beverage for the AMC group, similar concepts with alcohol service are already operating in the Chicago area at AMC theaters including in Lake in the Hills, Mt. Prospect and Chicago Ridge.
“We see this as an entertainment option that allows us to continue to be competitive,” MacDonald told the commission. “Liquor only makes up about 10 to 15 percent of our total food and beverage revenue, and only 2 to 3 percent of our total revenue.”
MacDonald spoke at length about the controls the company puts in place to make sure underage drinking is prevented as well as making sure that over-served patrons do not ruin the movie experience for others.
“We card everyone at the separate bar area which is only 16 feet long, and we only serve one drink at a time,” he said. “If someone wants to buy a second beer, we need to see that person and card him as well.”
Theaters are inspected at least every 30 minutes, MacDonald said, and more frequently depending on the size of the audience and the number of people who have purchased alcohol.
Irene Bahr, who is serving as outside legal counsel for the theater group, said having “a drop dead time” to get into a movie also prevents guests being over-served.
“There is a time you have to be ready to go into the theater, and if people were looking to really drink, they’d probably go elsewhere,” she said. “This is one of the growing trends in the industry.”
Mayor A George Pradel spoke about the Hollywood Palms currently in Naperville that also serves liquor as well as food and said that conceptually the AMC proposal is different.
“I’m not sure we have a liquor license that currently addresses this,” Pradel said. “I think we want to call some of the other communities where this concept is already in place and see what they tell us.”
Naperville attorney Michael DiSanto told commissioners there are two options for licensing the theater for alcohol service at this point.
“One would be to expand the current Class M license, and the other would be to create a new license altogether,” he said.
MacDonald said that liquor service would be cut off before midnight for those shows that sometimes premier the night before the regular opening and that the theaters always follow local ordinances regarding late liquor service.
The commission will discuss its findings next month.
Another agenda item regarding a late-night permit and a liquor code text amendment that would establish a growler permit for Granite City, which plans to open a restaurant and brewery in the Freedom Plaza development area, was not reviewed as a representative from the company did not appear at the Liquor Commission’s meeting Thursday.