The Journal Gazette
Thursday, December 03, 2015 12:16 am

Carmike gets approval to sell alcohol

Sherry Slater | The Journal Gazette

Two local movie megaplexes are adding beer and wine to their concessions.

Carmike Motion Pictures joins Cinema Center, a downtown arthouse theater, and Cinema Grill, which shows first-run movies in a cafe-style setting on the northeast side, as local venues where customers can gulp a cold brew while catching a comedy.

Allen County’s Alcoholic Beverage Board on Monday unanimously approved license requests for the Carmike-owned theaters at Jefferson Pointe and Dupont Road. Combined, the two locations have 38 screens.

The theaters’ management says its procedures keeps alcohol away from underage patrons. But some people are skeptical about how practical that idea is.

Company representatives at the board meeting included Bob Banda, district manager, and the managers of both theater locations. Their attorney said Carmike sells alcohol at 50 locations nationwide and has never been cited for violations.

The only other Carmike-operated location in the state that sells beer and wine is in Plainfield, just west of Indianapolis, the attorney said. Movie theaters in the Indianapolis area commonly sell beer and wine, he said.

AMC operates two MacGuffins Bar & Lounge locations there, but those theaters restrict admission to patrons 21 and older. AMC’s Fork & Screen-branded theaters are family-friendly theaters offering a full cocktail bar and expanded menu. There are none in Indiana, however, according to the company’s website.

Goodrich Quality Theaters also sells beer and wine in its Noblesville theater north of Indianapolis but not in its Huntington location, according to a Goodrich manager.

Officer Rafael Diaz, public information officer for the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, said he’s unaware of any problems or significant incidents related to drinking in movie theaters.

Diaz hasn’t noticed beer or wine being sold at the movies he’s been to, however.

Carmike policy states that only employees 21 and older are allowed to sell alcohol, and any employee caught selling to underage customers is fired, the attorney said.

Other safeguards, he said, include requiring a photo ID for every drink purchased; requiring all drinkers to wear bracelets that show they’ve proven their age; limiting alcoholic drinks to three per person; and putting alcoholic drinks in cups visibly different from cups that contain soda.

No one attended the hearing to speak against the license request. But another permit applicant joked before the meeting that he might.

Gary Gardner, operations manager for Belmont Beverage, attending the hearing to advocate for the retailer’s plan to build a new liquor store downtown.

He expressed surprise before the meeting when he learned that Carmike also had a pending request. He questioned how the theater’s management would enforce age restrictions in a darkened auditorium.

Gardner joked that after his request was considered, he might stick around to speak against Carmike’s application. As it happened, the movie theater’s request was dispensed first, and Gardner remained quiet while it was briefly discussed.

More than 35 percent of 15-year-olds confessed they’ve had at least one alcoholic drink in their lives, according to the 2013 National Survey on Drug Use and Health. And almost 23 percent of people ages 12 to 20 reported drinking alcohol in the previous month. The data are from the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

Carmike’s attorney said the theater chain faces increased competition from streaming services, including Netflix, which allow people to watch movies at home while they indulge in beer and wine.

Rival theater owner Regal Entertainment Group installed leather recliners in its Coldwater Crossing location earlier this year to better compete with Carmike and at-home viewing options.

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