Fresno is closing in on the opportunity to order a highball at the movies.
Planning director Jennifer Clark has approved a permit that would allow the serving of beer, wine and distilled spirits at the multi-screen Edwards movie house in North Fresno’s River Park shopping center.
According to city records, Clark approved the conditional use permit (CUP) on April 20. A city official told me that today (Friday, May 5) is the last day for the public to comment on Clark’s decision.
Fresnans knew last summer that they might someday be able to buy a beer as well as popcorn at Edwards. The thinking back then was that it would take about six months to clear all the regulatory hurdles.
It’s not clear from city records why things are taking longer than expected. One thing is clear – not everyone in Fresno is thrilled with the idea of booze at the movies.
“I am against introducing alcoholic beverages to an entertainment function that children attend,” wrote Joan C. Heisdorf, president of the Woodward Park Homeowners Association, in a letter to the planning department. “There are so many people at a movie viewing that it would be very difficult to see and prevent an adult from sharing drinks with underage children. In the dark of a movie it would be impossible.”
Heisdorf added that children in a theater with drinking adults will be “exposed to language and conversation that has been loosened by alcohol. It is not appropriate for this mix at neighborhood theaters.”
River Park is in District 6. That district’s plan implementation committee in February supported Edwards’ proposal on a 3-1 vote. According to city records, committee members did raise concerns about underage drinking.
The CUP application states that no alcohol will be sold after 11 p.m. Edwards is open as late a 1 a.m.
Alcohol will be sold at a specific spot in the lobby. No other product will be sold there. Adults 21 and older will be limited to one container per order. There will be no “to go” orders and no deliveries to moviegoers in a theater.
The “pour” limit is 16 ounces for beer and eight ounces for wine. The containers will be translucent, and therefore distinctly different than containers for non-alcoholic beverages. Customers must have an ID with a photo.
The regulation of alcohol through the CUP process is one of the more interesting land-use issues at City Hall. For example, I’ve noticed in recent weeks that the “99 Cents Only” retail chain was taking the necessary steps to sell beer and wine at several of its Fresno stores.
That struck me as odd. I occasionally shop at 99 Cents Only stores. I like the selection and prices. The cashiers are fast and courteous.
Most items are under a buck. Some aren’t.
I had never thought of a discount retailer selling common items for the home as a place to also buy a good bottle of wine or a couple of six packs of craft beer.
City officials tell me the 99 Cents Only stores will employ “dry shelving” when selling the beer and wine. There will be no “singles” in a cooler.
I’ve taken two lessons from all this paperwork on booze. Alcohol is an important part of American life. Never underestimate the ingenuity of American entrepreneurs when it comes to getting alcohol into the hands of paying customers.
That makes me think City Hall will find it harder and harder to say no to recreational marijuana dispensaries.