NY moviegoers can now have beer or wine with their popcorn

Let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby, let’s all go to the lobby to get ourselves a … beer.

Cinemas can now serve wine and beer at concession stands and movie-goers are allowed to take their drinks into the theater for the show, the State Liquor Authority ruled in a unanimous vote Wednesday.

Previously, theaters could only sell the drinks if they had a restaurant license with a full kitchen and waitstaff to bring the alcohol to customers in their seats — or a tavern license that limited drinking to a table, often in the lobby.

“Right now they’re having to consume [drinks] very quickly in the lobby, which is not a good thing,” Joe Masher, Chief Operating Officer at Bow Tie Cinemas, told the board before the vote.

Masher, who runs theaters that serve wine and beer upstate, said there’s never been an over-serving problem at any of the cinemas.

“We’ve never had an issue in any of our theaters … not a single incident,” he said. 

Under the new rule, cinemas serving just popcorn and other snacks can now also sell wine, beer and cider as long as it isn’t the businesses’ “prime source of revenue.” Hard liquor sales are still not permitted unless they have a restaurant license and serve the drinks at the moviegoer’s seat, as does Alamo and a handful of other chains.

Theaters previously could only sell alcohol if they had a restaurant or tavern license.
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The ruling came after members of the National Association of Movie Theatre Owners argued that their industry should be granted the same drinks-serving privileges that other nonrestaurant businesses, including hair salons, art studios and retail spaces have.

The change goes into effect immediately but it could be months before movie buffs see alcohol at their local theaters due to the licensing process, according to the board.