Commissioners say no to alcohol at Macon movie theater, but the fight may not be over

Here are some of the proposed amendments to Macon’s alcohol code

The Macon Bibb County Commission is considering various amendments to its alcohol code.
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The Macon Bibb County Commission is considering various amendments to its alcohol code.

Macon-Bibb County may face a legal battle after commissioners voted against allowing a movie theater to sell beer and wine.

The outcome of Tuesday night’s alcohol license vote means the company that operates the AmStar 16 Macon theater can appeal by requesting that a hearing be held. A special master would then issue a report that would come back to the County Commission for a decision.

Tuesday’s vote was 5-3 against granting the license. Commissioners Mallory Jones, Elaine Lucas, Joe Allen, Bert Bivins and Valerie Wynn opposed the license.

Mayor Robert Reichert told commissioners on different occasions that if a business meets the legal requirements for an alcohol license but it’s not approved, then “we could be opening ourselves up to a lawsuit,” said Chris Floore, assistant to the county manager for public affairs.

Macon-Bibb is already embroiled in a lawsuit over an alcohol license not being renewed. M&M Grocer’s license was denied because sheriff’s deputies had responded to numerous calls at the convenience store. But the movie theater denial is different, commissioners said.

Prior to Tuesday’s vote, several officials said they opposed the license because of the number of people under 21 who watch movies at the theater.

Commissioner Mallory Jones said some moviegoers would become “loud and boisterous” if alcohol is sold there.

Commissioner Al Tillman pointed out that alcohol can already be bought at other family-friendly establishments like Pin Strikes bowling alley, Chuck E. Cheese’s and at events at the Macon Coliseum such as Disney on Ice.

“To subject these folks to a hearing without a probable cause just makes no sense to me,” he said. “Unless we’re going... to start to prohibit alcohol license sales from every Macon-Bib facility that’s doing the same or something similar.”

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An AmStar 16 Macon representative told commissioners last week that the company has not had any alcohol related incidents at its 14 locations where alcohol is sold.

Every person’s identification is checked and only one alcoholic beverage can be purchased at a single time, said Michelle Duren, regional director of operations for Southern Theatres, which operates the Macon theater.

According to the Hollywood Reporter, by early 2017 alcohol was already being sold at more than 400 locations of three largest movie chains in the U.S.

Southern Theatres will receive a letter stating why the county was denying the license. The company would have 10 days to request a hearing.

A final commission vote on the license would still be taken even if the company doesn’t ask for a hearing.