Competing Springfield movie theaters join for city council discussion of alcohol sales

Published: Sep. 27, 2016 at 6:50 PM CDT
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Two theater chains want customers to be able to enjoy a beer or cocktail at the movies. Springfield's current law complicates things, however.

Five years ago, it became illegal for family-oriented movie theaters to serve alcohol. AMC Theaters and Alamo Drafthouse teamed up on Tuesday to educate the city council about how it works in other cities.

Alamo Drafthouse is busy remodeling the former Campbell 16 theater to a 14-screen cinema eatery.

"The community's been great; they've been very welcoming over the past eight months since we've been coming to town, and very excited about what we're bringing," said John Martin of Alamo Drafthouse.

Right now, theaters in Springfield don't serve alcohol because the voter-passed city ordinance says at least 75 percent of their guests would have to be over age 21. Alamo, which is more adult-oriented, is planning to serve alcoholic drinks.

"If we need to work within that, then we will," said Martin.

Servers will take guests' food and drink orders from their seats.

"Because of the well-lit screen pushing this way, I can see everyone's faces and beautiful hairstyles and whatnot, and I'm looking to see your ID and see if you're over 21, if you're ordering a drink," said Martin.

At AMC Theaters in 24 states, alcohol is served at a separate concession-style counter, but not here in Springfield.

"Current city code restricts us from being able to do it," sid Frank Lewis of AMC Theaters.

AMC joined Alamo Drafthouse to educate city council. Both theater chains stress the lack of problems where their theaters currently serve adult beverages.

"Nowhere in America has anyone been able to find any sort of issues with any city," said Lewis.

"People are there to see movies and have a meal and be entertained," said Martin.

Though they seem unlikely allies, the theater companies are joining forces against a larger challenge.

"Because our main competitor really is America's living room; it's about: How do we get guests back off the couch and back in? It benefits both theaters," Lewis said.

So far, no proposals exist to change the city's ordinance. Alamo Drafthouse plans to open in Springfield by early spring.