Galaxy Theatre officials convinced Tulare city planning commissioners last week to allow them to sell alcohol to Tulare movie-goers, despite concerns raised by members of the public.
In a unanimous 7-0 vote, the Tulare Planning Commission agreed to a one-year trial to make sure Galaxy can exercise adequate control of customer activities inside the theater and in the parking lot.
A.J. Taylor, general manager of Galaxy in Tulare and director of training for all the chain’s movie houses, said Galaxy enjoys an excellent reputation in Tulare and would never do anything to jeopardize that.
The purchase area for beer and wine will be separate from the regular concession stand and staff will be trained to prevent sales to underage patrons and to recognize signs of over-drinking, Taylor said.
The concept of selling wine and beer has proven “very successful and popular” at other theaters and it is something patrons have requested, he said. “This is reaction to a demand and not something we created.”
Many family restaurants allow patrons to drink at their tables, even with children present, he said. He cited Chuck E. Cheese, Time Out Pizza, Disneyland and California Adventure as examples.
The Tulare Galaxy has been instrumental in boosting Tulare Outlet Center visits as it draws visitors from throughout the region, Taylor said.
“This would help direct even more visitors from the tri-county area to Tulare,” he said. He reported he was not aware of other theaters in the area exploring the idea, but “it’s just a matter of time.”
Currently 32 theaters, including Galaxy in Atascadero, serve alcohol, according to the National Association of Theatre Owners.
‘Really bad plan’
“I think it’s a really bad plan,” Tulare resident Vicki Gilson told commissioners.
The difference between a restaurant and a movie theater is that movies are shown in the dark, she said.
Anyone who has attended concerts knows the danger of people “sloshing beer all over you,” she added.
Council Member Carlton Jones, stressing he was not speaking for or against the item, told commissioner he had used social media to asked the public what they thought about the idea.
Of the nearly 300 people replying, he said about 80 percent were against the idea and 20 percent for.
“There are a couple of investors here and it would be nice to hear them speak on why we need to make this change,” he said.
Frank Rimkus, chairman of Galaxy Theatres, which is based in Sherman Oaks, said alcohol has been “a popular asked for item for some time.”
Like Taylor, Rimkus said the move to sell alcohol will help the business maintain its competitive edge.
“If we don’t do this, someone else will and when they do it’s going to affect business;
it’s going to affect revenues,” he said.
Under current law, theaters can serve beer, wine and spirits, but the company is asking to only serve beer and wine and his staff will be vigilant in making sure rules are followed, Rimkus said.
“We have everything to lose and nothing to gain by not being on top of our game,” he said, reporting state Alcohol Beverage Control sends “mystery shoppers” to determine whether theaters are complying with the law. If not, there are stiff penalties, he said.
Addressing Gilson’s concern about the darkness in theaters, Rimkus said the theater is dark only from the position of looking at the screen.
Ambient light coming off screens is quite bright, allowing employees who make regular checks to see what’s going on when their backs are to the screen, he said.
“It’s quite easy to spot who’s drinking alcohol – you’re drinking out of a different glass; you can see immediately,” he said.
Beer prices will range from $6 to $7 dollars and wine from $8 to $10 per glass, which does not encourage heavy drinking, Rimkus and Taylor said.
Commissioner Richard Nunes agreed.
“I’m not going to pay $7 for a beer and another beer and another beer,” Nunes said.
Sharron Minnick said that while serving alcohol makes sense from a business standpoint but “if people around me are drinking alcohol, it does make me uncomfortable.”
At places like Chuck E. Cheese, there is light and you can see people’s faces, she said.
Jose Ruiz Salas said selling alcohol sends a message that it’s OK to drink at a movie and people will sneak it in. He also expressed concern about young people of drinking age pouring their drinks into cups of those who are not.
Commissioner Sandi Miller thanked members of the public who spoke and reported that she, like Jones, also conducted a survey, but in her case she found no opposition to allowing the sale of alcohol.
“I think Galaxy Theatres have done a great job in Tulare,” Miller said. “They are responsible people. It’s a responsible ownership.”
Commissioner Chuck Miguel asked if alcohol was going to be allowed for every movie. “I wouldn’t want it in Disney films,” he said.
Rimkus said it will be allowed in all movies. “We don’t serve; they have to come and get it; they can take it to any auditorium,” he said.
Commissioner Deanna Rocha said she was concerned that alcohol would be available for purchase before noon.
Miller said that is not any different from having champagne or another drink at Sunday brunch.
“I’m not necessarily bothered by the time,” she said. “I’m relieved to hear about the regulations, the control and the monitoring that’s going to be put into place.”
Miguel, speaking to Rocha’s concern, said he does shift work “so my noon is not your noon. My breakfast time is not your breakfast time.”
Commissioner Patrick Isherwood said he liked the fact city planners were calling for a 12-month review, a fact Rocha later said prompted her to support the permit.
Chairman Jeff Killion noted the planning staff had reviewed the project with Tulare Police Chief Jerry Breckinridge, who recommended adding the review requirement to the permit.
Story courtesy www.TulareVoice.com
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