Liquor Control and Licensing Branch clarifies Rio Theatre's licence

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      Will the Sunday, January 22, screening of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo go down in history as the last film that played at the Rio Theatre? Or is it not quite the end of the story?

      As they say, stay tuned, true believers.

      The East Vancouver movie theatre's bid to obtain a liquor licence has been an ongoing rollercoaster.

      On January 19, owner Corinne Lea announced that the venue would be granted its long-awaited liquor-primary licence. In a phone interview with the Georgia Straight, Lea claimed that she was advised by a consultant that she could continue showing movies part-time without bar service (and serve alcohol only during live events).

      However, during the final inspection later that same day, a condition was added to her licence that stated she would not be able to show movies at any time.

      Liquor Control and Licensing Branch general manager Karen Ayers told the Straight by phone from Victoria that Lea's interpretation of her licence was erroneous. She explained that Lea had been previously informed verbally and in writing that she couldn't operate as a movie theatre, and the term and condition was added "to ensure that there could be no further communication that she wasn’t aware or didn't understand the terms and conditions of her licence."

      Although Lea acknowledged the verbal and written warnings, she noted that her licence only applied to evening hours (such as from 6 p.m. onward). Ayers clarified that those hours pertain to "when her licence permits her to sell alcohol" but that the Rio Theatre is licensed at all times.

      Lea had also raised concerns about the licence identifying her venue as a "movie theatre" rather than a "multimedia venue". Ayers said that was a "moot point".

      "It's not the term and condition itself which prohibits from operating as a movie theatre," Ayers said. "It's the liquor and control licensing act regulation."

      Ayers explained that the reason the regulation is in place is because of public-safety issues. "A large number of moviegoers are youth and families and there's some fairly unique challenges posed by movie theatres in terms of ensuring minors don't have access to alcohol," she said. "Typically movie theatres are dark. When the movie is in play, there typically are no staff within the theatre for the duration of the movie. And so B.C., like all other provinces in Canada, specifically precluded movie theatres from being licensed for that reason."

      Although Ontario has changed its laws, Ayers said that liquor licences are only issued in that province to theatres that permit audience members who are 19 years and older. Ayers said she had confirmed that Manitoba, which recently announced it will change its liquor laws as well, has the same intent.

      Similarly, the Vancity Theatre is able to serve alcohol at its venue partly because the Vancouver International Film Centre is an adults-only society; attendees have to purchase a $2 membership and members have to be 18 years and older.

      "You're able to enjoy the benefits of a film society if you follow all the rules regulating film societies. And so one of the benefits is that films do not need to be classified," VIFC director Alan Franey said by phone. "On the obligation side, to be a film society, you have to be registered in law, you need to be non-profit, and you need a board of directors, and all that stuff, like the [Pacific] Cinémathèque has and we have. So the fact that we are a film society helps the governing authorities for liquor licences acknowledge that we don't have under-age people."

      However, Franey added that they still had to "go through quite a few hoops" because of the discrepancy between the 18 year minimum membership age and the 19 year legal drinking age.

      What's more, alcohol is only permitted to be served and consumed in the VIFC atrium, not in the theatre seating area.

      Ayers said she expects the Rio Theatre's licence to be issued some time this week, but the specific date was to still be determined.

      Meanwhile, several efforts have been arranged to save the Rio Theatre, including a Facebook group and an ongoing petition to have the liquor regulations changed.

      Vancouver city councillor Heather Deal has also placed a notice of motion to address the Rio Theatre's situation at the next Vancouver city council meeting to be held on January 31. She reportedly hopes to lobby the provincial government to revise its liquor laws. Deal did not return a call to the Straight by the time of this posting.

      Ayers said that the process for repealing the licensing regulation would require discussion of how civic and provincial governments would work together on the issue. Once the regulation is repealed, however, she said that "licensing could occur reasonably expeditiously".

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      Plesto Goan

      Jan 23, 2012 at 8:16pm

      This is B.S. I used to be able to meet up with my dealer on RIO's Friday night midnight screenings, get booze blasted in my seat and snort gak and drop d in the john - now where the F*** am I going to go?
      I f***ing hate this s*** hole town. F***ing puritan pu**ies.


      Jan 23, 2012 at 8:27pm

      This whole thing about the Rio theatre llquor licensing issue is getting interesting. They want to be a movie theatre and also have a liquor license. And they have been granted one. So what happens to citizens under 19 who want to attend a movie there? This means because the Rio is now liquor licensed that they can't attend films/movies at the Theatre. Liquor regulations state you must be 19 and over to enter licensed premises but it seems the Rio wants to change that. This I'm opposed to as those laws are in place for very good reason. Councillor Heather Deal also wants to change these rules and with all the serious issues at hand in this City why Councillor Deal would choose this as an important issue to champion is odd. It is kinda like pool halls or amusement arcades asking to be liquor licensed and if licenses are granted that means youth 19 and under would not be allowed to enter billiard halls or amusement arcades. Is this what we want to liquor license everything in this City which will than exclude lots of young people and I think that would be unfair!! The only places of entertainment our younger citizens can access are movie houses, arcades & amusement centres and billiard halls and if the City gets its way soon these places will be lost to young people. C'mon Councillor Deal think this one through more carefully please.


      Jan 23, 2012 at 9:09pm

      "Ayers explained that the reason the regulation is in place is because of public-safety issues."

      Er, BS. The Rio wanted to only sell liquor at live 19+ events and play films without selling liquor but was flat-out rejected for that plan - it's rather obvious that public safety is not the issue here.

      What's more, it's easy to check IDs at the point of sale. A dark theatre without staff supervision is no reason to ban liquor sales - if someone wants to share liquor with a minor inside the theatre, they could do so at home just as easily.

      A slightly more critical perspective from the Straight would be appreciated here.

      Martin Dunphy

      Jan 23, 2012 at 11:06pm


      Regarding "critical perspective":
      LCLB general manager Karen Ayers was unavailable for comment Friday afternoon (January 20) when Craig Takeuchi posted his previous article on the Rio's licensing woes. (See link to that and his Jan.19 article above in fourth paragraph of story.)
      The <em>Straight</em> called today (Jan. 23) to provide her an opportunity to respond to assertions from the Rio's manager. That response is posted above.
      Thanks for expressing your view.


      Jan 23, 2012 at 11:38pm

      This is fucking ridiculous. The Rio is a staple of Commercial Drive and an important part of east van. Half of the people in the Rio are already drinking, but buying it at the BCL or Toby's and drinking it discreetly. The Rio should be able to sell liquor to make money at any time. Liquor laws in British Columbia are outrageous. Let's end this archaic bullshit and just be responsible to/for ourselves and our children.


      Jan 24, 2012 at 4:29am

      It's embarrasing that this is an issue. Utah just called to laugh at our liquor laws.

      The public safety logic is *completely* flawed. All theatres are dark places; it would in fact be just as easy (or easier) for any underage person to sneak their outside alcoholic drinks into a Cineplex theatre.

      Effectively now, my dance group (like many) uses video and film in our choreographies. We would be banned from doing so at this venue. That is pathetic.

      Why does the liquor authority continue to be so completely inflexible? They appear to be anti-culture; and 'prohibition-era' in their thinking. They answer to no one and seemingly work to inhibit anything fun, interesting or creative in this city.

      For the few remaining people that staunchly stand by these decisions, please ask yourself: what am I actually defending? Hopefully soon you can be an agent for sensible change.

      Silly Vancouver

      Jan 24, 2012 at 8:10am

      Liquor control board has always made a big deal out of silly things. In the 1990's is was about the size of TV's when Planet Hollywood opened a new restaurant. Then last decade, they disallowed business name of a bar 1181 Davie (Tight). Now thise, no liquor in a movie theatre. These people at bc liquor control need get out more and get a life.

      Bradley Cooper

      Jan 24, 2012 at 10:47am

      Understand this: the province of BC and the rest of Canada are still under a state of prohibition. The consumption, sale and distribution of alcohol is still under tight control. Any change in any policy or regulation must be made by the control boards or government. As in any mysterious circumstance that at first glance defies logic: follow the money. The control board is obviously getting influenced by some powerful lobby by other market participants. This allows them to 'interpret' their regulations as they see fit.

      Gentleman Jack

      Jan 24, 2012 at 11:16am

      Those who think this is for "public safety", do you think the public are retards? It's nothing more than an employment scam for the critters who issue the licenses "copy/paste/print, stamp stamp stamp stamp. Ahh, another day at above-poverty wages, while Rome burns!"

      30 9Rating: +21


      Jan 24, 2012 at 5:01pm

      when you see a friday night movie at the rio its not really a 'movie' anyway - the movie is just part of an experience with costumes and performance etc. Can't the Rio's film screenings just be re-labeled as "film-events"? art galleries do this w/ alcohol all the time and film screenings there are normal.