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A bill allowing single-screen theaters such as Central Cinema to serve beer and wine this week cleared its first legislative hurdle, earning the endorsement of

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House Committee Votes for Beer in Cinemas

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A bill allowing single-screen theaters such as Central Cinema to serve beer and wine this week cleared its first legislative hurdle, earning the endorsement of the House Committee on State Government & Tribal Affairs.

The committee on Monday voted 10-1 to report House Bill 2558 with a "do pass" recommendation.

Under current law, minors are prohibited from entering movie houses where alcohol is served. Rep. Jim Moeller authored the bill creating a new liquor license category for theaters in response to a Vancouver theater owner's complaint that he couldn't profitably operate a downtown theater if forced to choose between serving alcohol and admitting minors. In Seattle, Central Cinema's Kevin Spitzer has voiced similar concerns, saying the rule would devastate business at his family-friendly theater.

Spitzer learned his business practices were in violation of existing liquor codes when he tried to apply for a license to serve spirits. The proposed new law, modeled after a similar statute in Oregon, would permit wine, beer and strong beer - but not hard liquor - in all-ages theaters.

"This bill is to help historic, single-screen theaters maintain their business plans," Moeller told the committee.

Brian Layton of the Seattle Theater Group, which operates the Paramount, Moore and Neptune theaters, spoke in favor of the bill. "We're very sensitive to what it takes to keep these theaters running and vibrant," he said.

A Washington Association for Substance Abuse and Violence Prevention representative was the only speaker at the public hearing to oppose the bill. "Is there no end to this?," he asked, pointing to another bill which would allow day spas to serve beer or wine by the glass without charge. "We ask you to please stop this proliferation."

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