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City Council approves Stars Cinema Beer and Wine permit request

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Mayor Frank Hash has signed off on a city permit for Stars Cinema to sell beer and wine, and the El Dorado Police Department has followed suit.

The application has been forwarded to the Arkansas Alcoholic Beverage Control, and Stars, the city’s only movie theater, is awaiting the state’s approval, owner Jake Turner said.

Turner said he is confident the application will be approved by the AABC, noting, “There’s no criteria that has not been met. We expect to hear back from them in a couple of weeks.”

The El Dorado City Council considered Stars’ plan on June 21, and with a vote of 4 - 3, aldermen authorized Hash to OK the city permit.

Later, the council agreed to wait until Alderman Billy Blann returned to allow him the opportunity to weigh in on the matter, (Blann was traveling outside the country at the time) and to invite Stars theater owners to the July 5 council meeting to discuss the issue.

The vote, however, stood and was not rescinded. Aldermen Vance Williamson, Tony Henry and Mary McAdams voted no on the motion.

“Considering, to date, the public has not voiced any notable opposition to my knowledge, I’m signing and releasing the application today,” Hash wrote in an email Tuesday.

“As far as I’m concerned, the matter is now closed and no additional discussions will be necessary at our next council session,” the mayor wrote.

Hash suggested that EPD Chief Billy White “do the same,” and White said he signed the application Tuesday and submitted it to the AABC.

Several people have posted comments about Stars’ plans on social media sites and the responses have been mixed.

Turner said he has received similar feedback, adding that he has personally received five phone calls from people who shared their thoughts on the matter.

“My phone number was put out there … There’s been just as much positive feedback as there has been negative feedback,” Turner said.

He also addressed social-media speculation that Stars is seeking a beer and wine permit to compete with other movie-watching options, such as on-demand and online streaming services.

Turner said he came up with the idea two years ago after noticing several articles about movie theaters across the country selling beer and wine and expanding food options, including serving dinner, to boost concession sales and improve the movie-going experience for audiences.

“That’s where movie theaters make money. You make little money off ticket sales. A lot of movie theaters that sell beer and wine are showing an average 25 percent increase in concession sales,” Turner said.

“We may not have 25 percent, but we’re trying to offer another option for people who want it,” he continued. “That’s what it’s about. It’s not a desperate attempt to stay in business. It’s about giving people more choices at the concession stand.”

He also said Stars has laid out a plan to thoroughly monitor beer and wine sales, proposing to:

• Continue to provide the weekend services of an off-duty El Dorado police officer, who will work security and undergo AABC training, monitor the point-ofsale register and patrol

theaters to ensure that minors do not come into contact with alcohol.

• Use a black light to detect fake IDs, per AABC suggestions.

• Use wristbands and/ or black-light stamps to identify customers who have purchased alcohol.

• Retrain Stars’ staff in removing and disposing of alcoholic beverage containers that are left by customers.

• Allow AABC agents to train employees that are involved in alcohol sales to identify fake IDs and legally sell beer and wine.

• Install extra surveillance cameras to closely supervise alcohol sales.

• Use one register in the concession stand for beer and wine sales. A trained staff member will check every ID that is presented for such sales.

“Once people see how controlled it is and the steps we’re taking to make it a safe, clean environment, I don’t think it’ll be an issue at all,” Turner said.

Tia Lyons may be contacted at 870-862-6611 or by email at tlyons@ eldoradonews.com .