Rio Theatre owner says liquor licensing change is not a real fix
Rio Theatre owner and general manager Corinne Lea said she was originally “ecstatic” to hear the provincial government had changed its liquor licensing rules to allow venues to screen films outside the hours defined in their liquor licence.
But upon further examination, she said the restrictions on scheduling for liquor licence holders mean that “the fix isn’t actually a fix”.
“At this moment, I’m only allowed to show movies during the day,” she told the Straight by phone. “So, only showing movies during the day does not solve the problem. We need to be able to show movies whenever we don’t have live shows booked.”
While the change announced by the provincial government today (February 9) means that licence holders can choose the days of the week and hours of the day they wish to have liquor service, Lea said the unpredictability of the entertainment industry makes it difficult to set a permanent schedule for her venue. She noted that she is often required to release films on dates set by movie distributors, and is told by live music acts when they will be touring.
“Unfortunately, they’re asking me to be set in stone with my schedule, and that is pretty much impossible,” she said. “We are going to follow the rules 100 percent, but we need something that is flexible, that follows the nature of the entertainment industry.”
The regulatory change follows weeks of controversy after the Rio Theatre was granted a liquor licence in the evenings for live events, but was prohibited from screening any films.
The condition on Lea’s licence stating that she could not screen any films or live broadcasts at the venue has now been removed. The rule prohibiting liquor service during film screenings still applies.
According to a government statement, once venues have their days and hours of liquor service approved by the Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, licence holders “may apply for temporary changes to liquor service hours”.
Lea said she is still hoping to negotiate a more flexible scheduling arrangement with the ministry, but is concerned that the latest change won’t make much of a difference for her business. The updated rules do mean that she can bring back the Rio’s daytime film screenings, such as weekend matinees and the “Movies for Mommies” program.
“As it is, I can show movies during the day, which is not that much of an improvement financially,” she said.
Rich Coleman, who is now the B.C. minister responsible for liquor licensing following a ministry restructuring, said in a statement that today's change will “give licence holders throughout the province greater flexibility in the types of entertainment they offer”.