New York City Movie Theatres Are Looking to Get Their Liquor Licenses

All theaters need, according to state law, is something that qualifies as a table surface for each seat.

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Movie theaters in New York City are eager to welcome alcohol as a new revenue source. 

Movie theaters in New York City are about to get a big potential revenue boost if all goes well with the State Liquor Authority. According to Crain’s New York, two theater chains have already applied for their liquor licenses, and the Alamo Drafthouse hopes to follow suit with an outpost in downtown Brooklyn.

In 2011, Nitehawk Cinema in Williamsburg, Brooklyn became the state’s first licensed theater, after Governor Cuomo signed a law allowing drinks to be served in theaters that qualify as restaurants, with tables available at each seat. Each theater must also serve food to satisfy the requirement.

If anything could help keep audiences in theater seats while home viewing options continue to expand, it’s probably alcohol. According to data from the Motion Picture Association of America, both box office revenues and ticket sales fell last year, by 5 and 6 percent, respectively.

Last year, the State Liquor Authority released less stringent guidelines for in-theater tables than originally anticipated, and at least one large theater chain is in the process of attaching a tray to each seat.

David Pfeiffer, a lawyer who is working with a number of theaters to comply with SLA standards, is optimistic that the changes aren’t too far in the future. “Once you start chipping away at the rule, it crumbles, and it's gone eventually,” Pfeiffer told Crain’s. 

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