OLYMPIA – Small theaters would be able to sell beer and wine during movies under a bill that narrowly passed the Senate on Friday.
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 small change that limits the size of eligible theaters.
Sen. Andy Billig, D-Spokane, said the change in state law would provide a bit of commercial help for neighborhood movie houses, such as north Spokane’s Garland Theatre, 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. Theaters that 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 believes 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 an eligible theater can have to four. Multiplexes are currently able to sell beer and wine with a special license in a screening room restricted to adults.