SAVOY — Despite some concerns about enforcement and possible underage drinking, the Savoy Board of Trustees is moving forward with a vote on a new theater liquor license, which would allow the Goodrich Savoy 16 to serve beer, wine and mixed drinks.
If approved in June, this would put the theater on par with the AMC Champaign 13, which has served alcohol since about 2012.
"We've found that as things progress in the entertainment industry, quite a few of the locations are offering beer and wine and spirits," Goodrich regional manager Heath Thomas said at Wednesday's study session. "Our competition here in the Champaign-Urbana-Savoy metro area already offers beer and wine, so we're coming in a little bit late to the table, but we're looking to match our competitors."
This would be Goodrich's second liquor license in Illinois and 15th in the company, he said.
Thomas said he doesn't expect alcohol sales to significantly boost ticket sales, but it's a way to stay current.
"It's not a silver bullet for any dropping sales, but it's an amenity, and it's being done in Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Champaign," Thomas said. "So we want to make sure that we're staying current with the trends, and right now, we're about seven years behind."
The drinks would likely run from $4 for domestics up to $6.50 for craft beers and up to $8 for wine and mixed drinks, which Thomas said would likely be a margarita or daiquiri machine.
The alcoholic drinks would be served in different plastic cups than other drinks, and all customers would be ID'd and have to wear a wristband, Thomas said.
"Whether they're 21 or they're 99, we ask to see their IDs," Thomas said. "That might seem extreme, but it sets that into motion that anybody that's serving alcohol thinks, I have to see your ID."
And alcohol wouldn't be allowed into movies rated G or PG before 8 p.m.
Trustee Bill Vavirk asked how this provision would be enforced.
Thomas said that customers buying alcohol would be asked what movie they're seeing and to show their ticket.
He also noted that alcohol is already allowed in other family-friendly environments, such as Chuck E. Cheese, Jupiter's at the Crossing (which has an arcade room) and most recently, at University of Illinois baseball, football and basketball games.
"We don't have a Chuck E. Cheese here in Champaign, but they do serve beer," Thomas said. "Jupiter's, which is a family environment, serves liquor. So, while I respect that, it really comes down to us not serving it to those that don't need to be served."
This seemed to sway Trustee John Brown a little bit, who said he was initially very opposed to the idea.
"I was totally against this idea, but I'm a little bit more open. I still would say I'm leaning against the idea," he said. "You mentioned some of these restaurants that cater to children. You brought up a good point: There's alcohol at those things."
Brown also said there hasn't been any problems with alcohol at the UI baseball games and the AMC Champaign 13 theater doesn't appear to have had any issues.
"My guess is, since I didn't know they were even doing it, there haven't been," Brown said.
Helton also said that he asked the city of Champaign if there have been any problems and that he was told there haven't been.
Trustee Heather Mangian asked Thomas if alcohol would be allowed in the party rooms.
Thomas said it likely would be, but customers would have to pay by the cup — so no kegs or pitchers — and the party would have to be related in some way to a movie.
"We do pours, and typically they'll come in, use the space, see the movie, they might partake in a drink or two," he said. "I'm not looking to set up a bartender in that room or set up a keg for their personal use."
Trustee Jan Niccum questioned whether young employees, who may know some of the attendees, would be willing to enforce underage drinking laws.
"I would suspect that they would have problems calling somebody out of the theater or ejecting somebody," he said. "Not to put the kids down, I'm just saying I think they would have problems doing that — snitching on a friend. I would think that'd be tough."
Thomas said alcohol hasn't been a problem at the Oswego and Noblesville, Ind., theaters he also manages, and ushers cycle through each theater roughly every 15 minutes.
"Being theater folk, we're pretty adept at walking into auditoriums and being able to spot different scenarios," Thomas said.
And he said, "We've had some arrests, but it stems from those who have partaken outside of our location, and we've denied them alcohol, and they got a little rowdy, so we removed them from the property. But we take a very serious stance whenever it comes to our liquor licenses."
Village President Joan Dykstra was skeptical that rowdiness or underage drinking would be much of an issue, given the expected prices.
"They're pricey, actually," she said. "You're not likely to get a lot of college kids going to the Savoy 16 to get bombed."
Niccum also expressed concern about legalized marijuana making matters worse.
Thomas said he doesn't expect that to be a problem.
"Not to make light of the subject, but I don't see too many people that smoke or that have edibles doing much other than tearing up a big large popcorn," Thomas said.