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AUDIO: Liquor laws relaxed for the Rio Theatre


UPDATE: At 9:00 a.m. on February 9th, B.C. Minister of Energy and Mines Rich Coleman announced that the province will now allow multi-use venues like the Rio to screen films outside liquor license hours.

“The change allows license holders to screen films and broadcast pay-per-view programs outside the hours outlined in their liquor license,” reads part of the press release. “License holders will still not be permitted to serve liquor during the screening of movies.”

Coleman said venues will be able to choose the days of the week and hours of the day they wish to have liquor service, and that screenings may occur on the off times. This change is effective immediately.

The single screen theatre has also been forced to cease its participation in the Vancouver International Mountain Film Festival, which was scheduled to premiere at the Rio on Friday. The festival screenings have since been relocated to Denman Cinemas in the west end.

NDP MLA Jenny Kwan joined Lea at the news conference earlier this week and proposed a quick fix. Kwan suggested B.C. Solicitor General Shirley Bond could sign an order-in-council that would establish a new category of license for multi-use venues. She urged the provincial government to “cut the red tape and get on with it.”

Think you know BC’s arcane liquor laws? OpenFile’s contributing editor Sarah Berman quizzed fans of beer and movies (and beer-and-moves) at a recent event to support the Rio—listen to find out how they did.

Lea says she’s been losing an average of $2,000 per day since the LCLB served a condition that prevents the Rio from screening films, live sporting events and other visual projections. Her business will take another $12,000 hit because of the Mountain Film Festival’s relocation. Lea maintains she does not wish to serve alcohol during film screenings—only during live events.

“We were aware that you can’t show movies with bar service in B.C., but we did not anticipate the LCLB would strictly enforce a ban on movies without alcohol at our venue,” reads an open letter to premier Christy Clark written by Lea on Tuesday. “The Rio is the only theatre in B.C. that has this condition added to its license.”

The LCLB, which imposed the condition on January 19, says it is not able to reverse the ruling. “At the present time the LCLB does not have the legal authority to permit the Rio to do what it is asking,” says LCLB spokesperson Terry Rowsell.

Although the liquor control branch has been considering a change in its liquor policy, Rowsell says it is up to the B.C. legislature to make a final decision. “The LCLB has been working on options for reforming and modernizing several liquor laws in the province and has presented those options [to government] for consideration,” he says. “The licensing of movie theatres is one of those laws.”

Rowsell says the government “will be in a position to make their decision public in the near future.”

In her open letter to the premier, Lea implored the province to make the “near future” arrive in time to save her struggling business. “Would you let people lose their jobs over an outdated bureaucratic rule that lacks common sense? Would you let your community lose its last remaining vibrant single-screen theatre and watch it turn into a darkened empty shell?

“Christy Clark if you won’t stop the LCLB from shutting us down, then who will?”

Originally published Feb. 9, 2012. Photo by Patrick Shannon (via Flickr).

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