ANNAPOLIS — A movie theater company wants adults to get off the couch and back to enjoying the big screen, and one proposal to help do so is to sell alcoholic beverages on its properties in Prince George’s County.
Frank Lewis, director of alcoholic operations in AMC Theatres’ Leawood, Kansas, office, said the company seeks to conduct a multimillion-dollar renovation project for the AMC Academy 8 in Greenbelt, which Lewis said has lost at least 2 percent of attendance in the past several years.
“This is a situation where we want to come in and create a more upscale environment where we are competing against America’s living room,” Lewis said. “We have to give a compelling reason to get adults off the couch and back in the movie theaters.”
The legislation for this plan in Prince George’s, labeled House Bill 1266, was discussed at a hearing Monday, Feb. 20 before the House Economic Matters Committee in Annapolis.
According to the bill, a company must have at least a $1 million investment and the average daily receipts from the sale of food cannot exceed those of alcoholic beverages.
The legislation states the county would receive $4,575 in fiscal 2018 that includes a $700 processing fee and $3,875 in annual licensing fees in fiscal 2019 and beyond.
Committee Vice Chairman Sally Jameson of Charles County voiced concern about selling alcohol with children at a theater, as the legislation states alcoholic beverages could be sold whenever a movie is playing. Some movies are shown as early as 10:30 a.m.
Lewis contended AMC already has two locations in Maryland already that sell beer, wine and liquor, one in Baltimore County and another in Wheaton in Montgomery County. A few tables are set aside in the lobby area for patrons to drink the beverages, which cannot be consumed off the premises.
If customers want to simply purchase alcohol, they must purchase a movie ticket.
“As far as our record, we haven’t had a minor consume any alcohol,” said Lewis, who added the company provides a list of AMC theaters nationwide that have served alcohol without incident.
Delegate Alonzo Washington (D-District 22) of Greenbelt presented the bill on behalf of the Prince George’s County Delegation, which hasn’t taken a formal position.
“I am reviewing it right now,” he said. “Other counties have done it in the state, so it’s not a new piece of legislation. We just have to make sure we reduce the possibilities of there being any minors that consume alcohol in these establishments. We just want to take those proper precautions.”
If approved, the bill would take effect July 1 and permit other theater establishments to apply for a liquor license. In regards to AMC, the company has three other locations in the county — AMC Magic Johnson Theater Capital Centre 12 in Largo, AMC Center Park 8 in Beltsville and AMC Rivertowne 12 in Oxon Hill.
Washington presented two other bills on behalf of the county’s delegation that have been highlighted recently. One seeks to change the structure of the county’s liquor control board, formally called the Board of License Commissioners, and the other to study how to sell and license alcoholic beverages.
The oversight legislation — House Bill 1317 — was spurred by County Executive Rushern L. Baker III and comes after federal authorities charged former Prince George’s state Delegate and county Councilman William A. Campos, two county liquor control board officials and two county businessmen in bribery scandals last month. If convicted, all five men face up to 15 years in prison.
One of the bill’s main items takes away control from the governor and gives it to the county executive to appoint and remove members of the county’s liquor board.
Although the board and its office follow state rules and regulations, most of the salaries are covered in the county’s budget, except for an executive director that hasn’t been appointed in the county for several years.
According to the legislation, the yearly salary for the director would be about $170,000.
The other legislation, House Bill 1324, seeks to create a 17-member commission to study how businesses can sell and regulate the distribution of alcohol in the county. Eleven of those members would be appointed by the governor.
If approved, the commission would be in existence for one year and a month until June 30, 2018. Before the group disperses, it must present a report to the governor by Jan. 1.