Friday, March 17, 2006

Committee OKs movie-beer bill

Express Staff Writer

A lukewarm reception to amending a section of Idaho law pertaining to beer and wine sales in movie theaters has turned into cautious approval.

Following a public hearing with the House State Affairs Committee Tuesday, committee members voted to send H777 to the House floor.

Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, introduced the bill that would allow cities to determine whether movie theaters can sell beer and wine to patrons over the age of 21.

Rick Kessler, owner of the Magic Lantern Theater in Ketchum, was among those who spoke in favor of the bill.

"Moviegoing, by definition, is an exercise where one sits quietly and watches the presentation," he said in a written copy of his testimony. "Any activity to the contrary is discouraged by the management and other patrons."

In the nearly 30 years he's had a license to sell beer and wine, Kessler said he's never had a complaint, nor has there been any alcohol related incident.

Lt. Robert Clements, with Idaho State Police's department of Alcohol Beverage Control, expressed concerns that a minor could secretly and illegally be given beer or wine under the cover of darkness in a movie theater.

"It is a legitimate concern," Kessler said. But, "with the privilege the state, the county and the city grants me to serve these beverages comes the responsibility to see to it that minors are not only not served, but also that they do not, in any way, get their hands on alcoholic beverages."

Kessler noted that beer and wine sales account for 17 percent of his concession sales.

The initial response to Jaquet's proposal was flatter than day-old beer.

"Last week (some committee members) said to me, 'There's no way we're going to have kids drinking beer and wine in movie theaters,'" she said. But, "after they heard the testimony, they decided to change their vote."

The bill also provides a definition for movie theaters as being a motion picture theater, screening room or other venue utilized primarily for exhibition of a motion picture.

Lt. Clements said last week he's taking a wait-and-see approach to the bill.

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