Rio Theatre’s Corinne Lea welcomes new liquor rules for cinemas

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Corinne Lea, owner of the Rio Theatre in East Vancouver, is applauding the latest change to provincial liquor-licence rules.

Theatres can now apply for a licence to serve alcohol during film screenings, minister Rich Coleman announced today (April 11).

The previous regulations, which were relaxed somewhat in February, banned licensed venues in the province from ever showing movies.

However, theatres can now apply for a licence to serve alcohol in lobbies during all-ages film screenings and in auditoriums for adults-only screenings.

“From what I can tell so far it looks really positive. It looks like we’ve pretty much got everything we’ve wanted. So, yeah, we’re thrilled,” Lea told the Straight by phone.

Lea, who runs the single-screen Rio Theatre at Commercial and Broadway, has been waging a public fight to change the provincial liquor rules.

In January, Lea announced the Rio—a venue for both film screenings and live events—was being forced to stop showing movies after it received a licence to serve liquor at live events.

After an outcry from Lea, the province updated the regulations in February.

That change allowed film screenings at licensed venues during some times but liquor service was still banned during movies.

Lea argued the rules were still too restrictive and that her small business was in jeopardy.

However, with the province’s latest change to the liquor rules, she is pleased.

“This time around it looks like they’ve made every effort to remove unnecessary restrictions and just simplify the whole process and that I appreciate so much,” Lea said.

“It sounds like Rich Coleman really heard what we were asking for and he has delivered.”

While it isn’t clear when the Rio might be able to receive approval under the new rules, Lea said the change is a boost for her business.

“The future was 100 percent uncertain before. Instead of the odds being stacked against us, now we’ve got the odds in our favour,” she said.

“Who knows? Maybe it’s still going to prove difficult, as I know business does. But at least now we’ve got a good fighting chance to make this work.”

NDP arts critic Spencer Chandra Herbert also welcomed the change by the province.

“I’m really happy that they finally acted,” Chandra Herbert told the Straight by phone.

He said the changes announced in February by Coleman, the minister responsible for liquor, were not helpful.

“Now he’s come back in and deleted the things that he brought in to fix it and has done what we in the NDP suggested after the mess-up to begin with. It’s a good change,” Chandra Herbert said.

The province says around 130 theatres could be eligible to submit applications under the new rules.

"These changes give movie theatres and live-event theatres much more flexibility to operate while allowing adults to responsibly enjoy a drink while watching a movie,” Coleman said in a statement.

“These changes strike an appropriate balance between allowing liquor service at theatres and limiting minors' access to alcohol."

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