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Big-Screen Beer 

A bill in Olympia could allow you to drink at the Garland. If the theater can afford it.

click to enlarge The Garland - YOUNG KWAK
  • Young Kwak
  • The Garland

There’s nothing finer than watching a second-run movie for a fistful of dollars while drinking a cold beer. Thanks to some legislation slowly making its way through Olympia, this may soon be possible.

“I think it would be great,” says Dena Carr, director of operations for the Garland Theater and its adjoining high-end cocktail bar, Bon Bon. “Historic theaters are in a place where we’re struggling to find ways to remain viable. I think that this is a possibility in terms of retaining current customers and bringing back former customers that may have forgotten about us.”

On Feb. 16, the Senate Committee on Labor and Commerce and Consumer Protection held a public hearing on Engrossed House Bill 2558.

The bill would create a license allowing beer and wine to be sold in single-room theaters. And it’s not just the Garland Theater that could feel the effects of this law. According to the bill, a theater is defined as a place where motion pictures or live musical, dance, artistic, dramatic, literary or educational performances are shown.

The legislation passed the House with a vote of 87-10.

According to the bill’s sponsor, state Rep. Jim Moeller, D-Vancouver, historic theaters can apply for a tavern license or a restaurant license if they want to serve alcoholic beverages.

Theaters like the Garland cater to families and children and would likely opt for the restaurant license. Having a tavern license means people under 21 are not permitted on the premises. But according to Moeller, most historic theaters don’t have the capacity to meet the requirements of a restaurant license, which requires certain types of food to be served.

Carr has other things to consider first.

A couple of years ago, the Garland considered allowing beer and wine and did some research. Representatives from the state’s Liquor Control Board didn’t have a problem with allowing beer as long as the theater’s lights were kept at a certain level.

“The big issue was when we tried to go through the city,” says Carr. “The fire inspector said it would be a change-of-use and we’d have to sprinkler the entire theater. We’re looking at probably at least a $400,000 investment in the building before we pour the first beer.”

But even before that, there’s another costly step to be made.
“Digital conversion of the movie industry,” Carr says. “For us to keep our doors open beyond this year, we have to find $75,000 for a digital projector. That’s the first project.”

Additional reporting for this story was provided by the WNPA Olympia News Bureau.

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