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Plan taps idea of alcohol in theaters

Joe McIntyre/staff photographer

Plaza 6 Cinemas Assistant Manager Sierra Wilhoit, of Cortland, resupplies soft drink cups Thursday. Alcoholic beverages may be among those offered at concession stands in movie theaters, if a proposal by Gov. Andrew Cuomo, goes through this year.

If the governor has his way, residents across the state will be able to order a white Zinfandel or an ice cold beer when they go to pick up popcorn and candy from the concession stand at their favorite movie theater.

Earlier this month, as part of his proposed $152.3 billion budget, Gov. Andrew Cuomo proposed allowing the sale of beer and wine at movie theaters across the state.

While theaters would technically be able to sell liquor as well, Michelle Nicoll-Rosales, a spokesperson from Cuomo’s office, said Thursday, emphasis is on the sale of beer and wine — particularly, those manufactured in New York.

She also referenced how the state recently passed the Craft New York Act marketing initiative and the expansion of the Beer Production Tax Credit, expected to save brewers and distillers a total of $4 million over two years.

“The legislation builds on the governor’s commitment to boosting the industry over the past five years,” she said. “The intent of the legislation is to provide licenses to serve alcohol in theatres, with the focus on beer and wine.”

The idea is not completely unheard of — there are some business, like the Movie Tavern in Camillus, that have kitchens and table seating and are allowed to sell food and “soft liquor” while they show movies under existing law.

The governor’s proposal, however, would allow the State Liquor Authority to issue “Motion Picture Theater Alcohol” permits to movie theaters and allow them to sell beer and wine to customers one drink at a time during screenings of films rated PG-13 or higher.

There has also been talk of incentivizing the sale of New York-brewed beers at movie theaters, but many of the details about how the program would work have yet to be hashed out.

If everything goes accordingly, though, co-owner of the Cortland Beer Co., Dawn Zarnowski, said Thursday she’d be one of the first people to strike a deal with a like-minded movie theater owner.

She said even after brewing beer in the heart of Downtown Cortland for seven years, there are still some folks who have not yet been introduced to the brand and she views the governor’s proposal as a way to get product in front of more people.

“The more people that drink our beer, the better, of course,” she said.

Zarnowski said experience has taught her the licensing process can take a while on the state’s end, but the Cortland Beer Co. is more than ready to start shipping out beers when the time comes.

“We have the ability to brew more than we do at this moment in time,” she said. “We might have to buy more equipment, but right now we’re in a good place so it’s no problem at all.”

Not everyone is thrilled with the proposal, though.

Matt Whitman is program manager for Cortland Area Communities That Care, the area agency that tracks and educates the public on substance use, abuse and addiction.

He said Friday while he was not too familiar with the proposal, he is concerned about anything likely to send a message to children and teens that the risks associated with alcohol are not as big a deal as adults would lead them to believe.

“It’s just another place kids are going to be exposed, potentially,” he said. “Adolescents are still going to see PG-13 movies, so they’re still going to be exposed at a younger age … which would be problematic from a prevention standpoint when you’re trying to change those social norms around alcohol.”

The Plaza 6 Cinemas manager could not be reached for comment by press time.

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