By Ben Rodgers
ASHWAUBENON – After a close vote from the village board and concerns from community members, moviegoers at Marcus Bay Park Cinema will soon be able to order a beer.
“The guest that comes in today tends to be a mature guest, and one of the things they ask for us is more selections,” said Rob Novak, vice president of concessions, food and beverage for Marcus Theatres Corporation at the Tuesday, Jan. 23 village board meeting.
Novak said the movie theater industry as a whole has gone through an evolution in offering more to meet the wants of their customers.
In Ashwaubenon he said there was a need for customers to be able to purchase a beer for when they watch a movie.
“We don’t find people going into there to overindulge,” Novak said. “It’s an item that’s offered and some guests choose to do it.”
Currently moviegoers at Marcus Green Bay East Cinema can order a beer, as well as at 43 of the other 69 theaters Marcus owns and operates in the Midwest.
Even with the change across Marcus, some community members expressed concerns.
“I do drop my teenager off at the theater and it’s still one safe place that you can drop your kids off and you don’t have to worry about alcohol being there,” said Lynnette Clancy, community member. “You don’t have to worry about people drinking and being belligerent.”
Clancy had concerns that people would come in off the street, order a beer and leave, just like what some people do with movie theater popcorn.
“With open container laws we’re not going to be selling a beer if you walk in off the street,” Novak said. “We’re not going to serve you a beer and let you walk out on the street with it.”
Novak said beer sales would be 16 ounce aluminum bottles and the beer would be served in a glass different from soft drink glasses.
Santha Velusamy had concerns with the message being sent to children.
“I wouldn’t be comfortable taking my kids to the theater,” she said. “Without introducing issues we don’t have to find a solution. Say my son goes to a movie theater, he won’t buy it, but he’s watching others, and its introducing that you can drink like that. I don’t want that to happen.”
Members on the board also expressed concern.
“That’s one place where we can drop our kids off and we know there is not alcohol,” said Mary Kardoskee, village president. “So I can’t say that I’m for this yet.”
Village Trustee Ken Bukowski said Marcus appears to be taking the proper steps to make sure no one underage is served, but still he was hesitant.
“I know you’re taking all kinds of precautions, I understand that,” Bukowski said. “This one gives me some trouble.”
Other board members expressed less concern before the vote.
“I think popcorn is a great absorber for alcohol,” said Trustee Gary Paul. “I don’t see that as a really big issue.”
Trustee Mark Williams noted the board approved a license earlier in a meeting for an establishment that is not a traditional bar. He also noted that Chuck E. Cheese’s serves beer.
“I got to go by what’s best practice, what we have on the books and everything,” Williams said. “And I can’t see not allowing this.”
Trustee Allison Williams said she lived in Midland, Texas after graduating college and there people could order buckets of beer and pitchers of margaritas when going to the movies.
“I never experienced any issues at the theater and I ended up going back multiple times,” she said.
The vote passed 4-3 with Allison Williams, Mark Williams, Paul and Trustee Chris Zirbel in favor.
Opposed were Kardoskee, Bukowski and Trustee Michael Malcheski.
After the meeting Novak said he is hopeful beer sales can start in 30 days, after the necessary paperwork and training is completed.