Sen. Andy Billig argues in favor of allowing small theaters to serve beer and wine.
OLYMPIA -- Small theaters would be able to sell beer and wine during movies under a bill that narrowly passed the Senate today.
Over objections from some senators that it represents a further "desensitization" of the dangers of alcohol, House Bill 1001 passed 27-21 and was sent back to the House to approve one change that did pass the Senate: The new rule is limited to theaters that have four or fewer screens.
Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said the change in state law would provide a bit of commercial help for neighborhood movie houses like North Spokane's Garland Theater, that are struggling to compete with the large multiplexes. It allows them to sell a glass of wine or beer to adults to take into the theater, even when children are present in the room. Theaters who receive a license to serve beer and wine from the state Liquor Control Board must have plans to ensure minors aren't served and face double the fines for violations that a bar would receive.
Sen. Jeanne Darnielle, D-Tacoma, said the bill doesn't have enough accountability, and the state doesn't need to expand places where alcohol can be served: "We're just in a race to decide (alcohol) is not a health problem. We begin to think it's all right, that it doesn't have more consequences."
Sen. Mike Baumgartner, R-Spokane, said he rarely drinks but beleives the bill represents one of the few areas where he thought the state could be more liberal. "It's a step toward moving our culture to being more comfortable with these issues."
The bill now goes back to the House for agreement on an amendment that limited the number of screens a theater can have to four to be eligible for the license. Multiplexes are currently able to sell beer and wine with a special license in a theater that's restricted to adults.