Proposal would allow theaters to sell beer and wine

SEATTLE -- Some local theater owners say being able to serve beer and wine would help keep them in business, but not everyone is sold on the idea.

At the West Lenin Theater in Seattle's Fremont neighborhood, the cast of "Beating up Bachman" is rehearsing for opening night. But the only wine you'll find in the performance theater is a prop bottle.

Theater owner AJ Epstein said the law currently prohibits him from serving beer and wine, and that leads to smaller theater companies taking their business elsewhere.

"They said, 'Ya know, what our audience wants is a drink (and) we're not going to be able to sell tickets unless they can have a drink,'" Epstein said.

Small theaters across the state are now asking the legislature to create a special liquor license that would allow them to serve beer and wine during a performance.

"There's no reason why they shouldn't be able to take their beer or wine to their seat and enjoy their movie," Epstein said.

A bill introduced by State Rep. Jim Moeller aims to help small, historic theaters serve alcohol without requiring food service or completely banning minors. He said each business would be responsible for keeping alcohol out of the hands of minors.

"The liquor control commission is going to be looking at that plan to make sure the people under the age of 21 don't get access to alcohol," Moeller said.

Despite plans to keep minors from drinking, not everyone is sold on the idea.

"I'm not sure if I feel comfortable for kids to be around that in an enclosed area," said Fremont resident Holy Betz.

Others, such as Frank Outhet, fully support the idea.

"For me, I would love it," Outhet said. "I think more of my adult friends would go in and the movie business would increase."

For Epstein, serving beer and wind means making ends meet.

"If I can legally serve alcohol, I'm going to be able to have four or five events a week," he said. "That means I can actually take home a pay check. For a small businessman, that's everything."