The Regal Modesto Stadium 10 could become the second first-run movie theater in the area to sell beer and wine.
The city’s Board of Zoning Adjustment on Thursday approved issuing what is called a conditional use permit for the alcohol sales, though two BZA members were concerned that alcohol could wind up in the hands of teens and that moviegoers who had been drinking could become disruptive.
Regal has several months of work ahead of it, including obtaining a license from the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control and remodeling the theater to accommodate the beer and wine sales, as well as an upgraded menu, which will include hamburgers, sandwiches and pizza. Regal is seeking an ABC license that requires it to offer food – not just popcorn and other snacks – with the beer and wine.
Regal Entertainment Group does not have a date for when it could start selling alcohol at its McHenry Avenue theater, said Los Angeles attorney Bruce Evans, who represents the nationwide theater chain.
He told BZA members that Regal is trying to remain competitive at a time when people have more entertainment options in their homes by offering them the experience of watching a movie while eating a meal with wine or beer. “This is about getting people off their couches,” he said.
Serving beer and wine is a growing trend among movie theaters. In July, Riverbank’s Galaxy Theatres became the first first-run movie theater in Stanislaus County to sell beer and wine. A spokesman with the National Association of Theatre Owners told The Fresno Bee in December that “brew and view” theaters have caught on in Texas and the Northeast and are moving into California.
Evans said Regal Entertainment has been selling beer and wine for three years at its Newport Beach theater without problems and plans to expand the concept into 10 other California communities, including Modesto.
Regal is not planning to sell beer and wine at its other Northern San Joaquin Valley theaters, located in Stockton and Turlock. Brenden Theatres Modesto 18 officials could not be reached for comment regarding whether they have plans to sell alcohol.
Modesto’s State Theatre has sold beer, wine and cocktails for several years. Unlike first-run theaters that show mainstream movies, the State features classic, foreign and independent films and serves a different customer base.
BZA member Hank Pollard cast the only vote against granting the permit. Board member Vladimir Rodriguez also raised objections but decided to give Regal the benefit of the doubt and voted for the permit.
The men’s concerns included that the beer and wine might end up in the hands of underage drinkers, that patrons could leave the theater in no shape to drive and that Regal’s young staff lacks the ability not to serve people who have had too much to drink or quell a problem caused by a boisterous drinker.
Evans said staff will be trained to handle the alcohol sales and monitor customers, drinkers will be required to wear wristbands and can’t buy more than two drinks, and beer and wine will be sold in relatively small amounts and in distinctive cups to distinguish them from the cups used for soft drinks.
He added that Regal’s experience is that its customers do not drink to excess, in part because of the cost of going to a movie. It costs $8 for a ticket and $7 to $8 for beer or wine. That doesn’t include the cost of food. He said no more than 10 percent of Regal customers buy beer and wine.
Modesto officials told BZA members that they checked with Riverbank officials, who reported no complaints or problems with Galaxy selling alcohol. Before it can start, Regal will have to meet with Modesto police to review its security measures and policies for selling beer and wine.