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NLR movie theater seeks alcohol permit

LITTLE ROCK — If a North Little Rock movie theater gets its way, it will be able to offer adult patrons beer and wine along with popcorn, candy and sodas.

The Regal McCain Mall Stadium 12 theater is appealing a decision by the director of the state Alcoholic Beverage Control Division to reject its application for a permit to serve beer and wine. ABC’s board of directors is scheduled to hold a hearing on the appeal Oct. 16.

Two other Arkansas movie theaters — Market Street Cinema in Little Rock and MovieLounge in Fort Smith — currently have permits to serve alcohol, but the theater in McCain Mall would be the first non-art house theater in the state to add alcohol to its concessions.

ABC Director Michael Langley rejected the application in August after receiving an objection from North Little Rock Police Chief Mike Davis.

“We don’t think that’s necessarily a good fit for alcohol,” Davis said Tuesday.

The theater’s manager, Michael Gonzales of Sherwood, referred questions to Knoxville, Tenn.-based Regal Cinemas, which owns the theater. Regal Cinemas did not immediately return a phone message Tuesday.

Davis said representatives of the company assured him the theater would take steps to prevent alcohol from being sold to or shared with underage patrons, as do Regal theaters that sell alcohol in about six other states, but he was not satisfied by those assurances.

The police chief said he was told that before a patron could buy an alcoholic drink, he or she would have to show identification and obtain a wristband. A hole would be punched in the wristband each time the patron bought an alcoholic drink, and the patron would be limited to three drinks per night. Also, ushers would walk through the seating areas periodically to check for underage drinking, he said.

Davis said the system is similar to that used at, for example, Verizon Arena or a bowling alley, except that in those places “it’s a little easier to watch and see if there’s somebody that’s out of control or underage.”

“At a movie theater it’s just dark, and when you walk into a movie theater you don’t really have an angle like you do at Verizon or something, where we’re above (the audience) a lot of times, we can look down and see things,” he said. “When they come in, pretty much they’re down and looking up whenever I’ve seen an usher come through.”

Langley said he is concerned about the large numbers of young people who go to the theater. Market Street Cinema and MovieLounge cater to an adult audience, but many of the movies shown at the Regal theater are aimed at children, he said.

“It is just not something that made me comfortable at all,” he said.

According to its website, Regal Cinemas operates 575 theaters in 42 states, the District of Columbia, Guam, Saipan and American Samoa.

The hearing on the theater’s appeal is set for 10 a.m. on Oct. 16 at ABC’s headquarters in downtown Little Rock.

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