St. Charles considers liquor license for Charlestowne 18 movie theater
A movie theater chain's request to sell alcoholic beverages during shows has prompted St. Charles to consider creating a new liquor license classification.
Downers Grove-based Classic Cinemas is seeking permission to add an assortment of canned beer, wine and cocktails to its menu at the Charlestowne 18 theater, located within Charlestowne Mall. The proposal was backed this week by the government operations committee and liquor control commission, both of which also supported adding a D-11 "theater license" to the city's liquor code.
Allowing alcohol sales in movie theaters has become common practice throughout the suburbs, police Chief James Keegan said, noting Classic Cinemas has liquor licenses for its Elmhurst, Downers Grove, Fox Lake and North Riverside locations. The city's proposal is modeled after ordinances in Elgin, which has a Marcus theater, and other municipalities that have AMC locations.
"To remain competitive, I think it's great you're doing this," Alderman Lora Vitek told Classic Cinemas CEO Chris Johnson on Monday. "Frankly, it's not a far drive for people in St. Charles to drive to another theater, and this may make people more apt to stay here."
In addition to the Von Maur anchor store and the Cooper's Hawk and Starbucks outlots, Charlestowne 18 has been one of "a few shining lights" at what is otherwise a desolate mall property, Mayor Ray Rogina said.
The theater was revamped a couple years ago with new motorized recliners, larger screens and remodeled hallways. Johnson said the company also hopes to renovate the lobby, though those upgrades are on hold until plans for the mall's future are brought to light.
A concept plan presented more than two years ago called for the complete revitalization of the site, but mall owners have yet to make a deal with developers to push that vision forward. Despite the inactivity, Rogina said, the movie theater has continued to operate successfully.
"In the dearth of what I call a challenging project in the Charlestowne Mall, we have some saviors," he said, expressing his support for granting the theater a liquor license. "One of the stabling forces over there has been and continues to be Charlestowne 18."
If approved by the city council, the new liquor license classification would prohibit theaters from selling more than two alcoholic beverages at a time and would require that they be served in different containers than those used for soft drinks, according to the proposal. Sales can begin up to an hour before the start of the theater's first show and must cease when the last movie ends, as long as the hours fall between 7 a.m. and midnight.
Classic Cinemas has protocols in place to ensure employees who sell alcohol are at least 21 years old and have gone through the proper training, Johnson said. At Charlestowne 18, the liquor sales likely will take place at one end of the lobby's concession counter, he said. There will not be a wait staff or a call button within the auditoriums.