AMC wants to open bars at both its Baton Rouge movie theaters

Baton Rouge’s two AMC Theaters may soon offer Pinot noir and Pabst Blue Ribbon along with popcorn.

Notices have been put up at the AMC Baton Rouge 16 off O’Neal Lane and at the AMC Mall of Louisiana 15 letting the public know the theater chain has applied for permits to sell beer, wine and liquor.

Officials with the city-parish office of Alcoholic Beverage Control and Gaming Enforcement said the two movie theaters have to be rezoned to allow for alcohol sales. No rezoning requests have been filed yet with the city-parish Planning Commission, although planning officials said AMC has spoken to them about rezoning.

Several Metro Council members, who ultimately would determine if the AMC theaters will be rezoned to allow for alcohol sales, were split on the issue.

Ryan Noonan, a spokesman for AMC, of Leawood, Kan. said the company plans to build MacGuffins Bar & Lounge locations at both theaters. Noonan would not discuss potential opening dates.

“We’re still going through the licensing process,” Noonan said.

AMC operates nearly 50 MacGuffins at its theaters, including in the Clearview Palace 12 in Metairie and the Elmwood Palace 20 in Harahan. The bars sell beer, wine and cocktails before and after movies, and patrons can buy a beverage to take into the theater.

AMC said all customers will have their ID checked, regardless of how old they look, and some customers may be asked to show their ID throughout their visit to the theater.

According to a menu from a Newport, Ky., MacGuffins posted on Yelp.com, glasses of wine cost between $5 and $8, bottles of domestic beer were $5.75 while draft beers cost between $6.50 and $9.25. Cocktails were listed at $9.75.

AMC said the bar gets its name from a term coined by Alfred Hitchcock to refer to a plot device that motivates characters and advances the story.

The only theater in Baton Rouge that sells beer, wine and liquor is the Manship Theatre in The Shaw Center for the Arts, which regularly shows first-run independent features and classic movies. In the late 1980s, the Varsity Take Two Theater briefly operated just outside the North Gates of LSU with a full bar.

In recent years, theater chains have taken to selling liquor as a way of generating more money by capturing customers who may have gone to nearby restaurants and bars and luring adults to a night out at the movies. Both Regal Cinemas, which owns the UA Citiplace Stadium 11, and Cinemark, which owns the theater in Perkins Rowe, have theaters elsewhere that sell alcohol. Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, of Austin, Texas, has made a name for itself by opening theaters that have servers taking craft beer and cocktails directly to movie-goers.

Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle said that if serving beer, wine and liquor is working at other movie theaters across the U.S., then it should be allowed in Baton Rouge.

“I don’t see the difference between drinking a beer and eating popcorn and seeing a movie, or drinking a beer and eating popcorn at a sports bar,” she said.

Councilman John Delgado, who co-owns the downtown bar Huey’s, said he has no concerns about allowing alcohol sales at movie theaters.

“We just need to make sure that vendors are responsible and that drinks are sold to people who are of age,” he said.

Councilwoman Tara Wicker, who along with Councilwomen Ronnie Edwards and Donna Collins-Lewis have tried to make it more difficult to add liquor outlets in low-income areas, said she needs more information about the rationale behind allowing alcohol sales at movie theaters.

“If this is about encouraging additional people to go to the movies and serving as an economic driver, I want to know the justification for it,” she said.

Edwards said she’s against the further proliferation of liquor licenses.

“It doesn’t bode well to have this around young people in family-friendly entertainment,” she said. “My concern is not only having alcohol in the presence of children, but for people to enjoy a show apart from unruly behavior.”