ALBANY — A bill that would allow film fans to enjoy a beer, glass of wine or a cocktail at the movies failed to gain approval in the final hectic days of the legislative session.
But theatergoers hoping for a drink and a flick shouldn’t despair: The key critic, Assemb. Robin Schimminger (D-Kenmore) said Friday that he’s open to a fix that could pass the measure in the 2017 session beginning in January. Before a theater would be able to offer alcohol during movies, he wants approval from the local community.
“That could be palatable,” said Schimminger, who held the bill in his committee Friday as the Legislature sought to close the 2016 session.
The measure would allow alcohol to be sold at movie theaters for an hour before a film begins and until the final credits. To meet the requirement to serve food for this type of liquor license, the law says theaters could comply by selling “popcorn, candy and light snacks.”
Some theaters already offer alcohol, but the current law restricts it to table service in lounges outside the film-screening areas.
“Moviegoers are looking for ways to make their night out a more special one,” said Sen. Diane Savino (D-Staten Island), who sponsored the bill, which passed the Senate Thursday. “Allowing cinemas to serve beer, wine and liquor will enhance their experience, while also providing economic benefits to the state.”
However Sen. Todd Kaminsky (D-Long Beach) warned that there are fewer and fewer places where alcohol is no longer served. “We are shrinking the places where your children can go without alcohol being served,” he said on the Senate floor. “And if you think kids won’t be able to get their hands on alcohol, think of high school.”
The state Legislature and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo have already agreed to another bill that would allow alcohol to be sold at bars and restaurants before noon on Sundays. The so-called brunch bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting action in the Assembly.
The movie theater bill sponsored in the Assembly by veteran Assemb. Joseph Lentol (D-Brooklyn) was poised for a final vote Thursday.
“There may be legitimate reasons to hold this up, but I can’t really think of any,” Lentol said in an interview Thursday. “You can have a drink at ‘Hamilton,’ you can have a drink at the opera. Why not a drink at the movies? It’s a nice night out. It doesn’t make sense. It’s something out of Prohibition.”