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Paonia working to repeal 2006 liquor ordinance

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Photo by Tamie Meck A crowd gathers outside the Paradise Theatre following a movie last summer. The theatre is again selling alcoholic beverages after a 2006 Paonia ordinance that would have severely restricted the theatre's ability to sell alcohol is bei

The Paradise Theatre in Paonia will not be required to adhere to a 2006 town ordinance that would severely restrict sales of alcohol during movies and some special events, while town trustees consider repealing or re-wording the ordinance.

The theatre became licensed by the state to sell alcohol in 2006 and has met its obligations to the town and the state in keeping the license current. It has no history of code violations. On May 24, the town board approved its annual liquor license renewal application.

On May 27, following a meeting with town manager Jane Berry and clerk Corinne Ferguson to discuss liquor laws, the board of the Friends of Paradise Theatre, which oversees theatre operations, ceased sales of alcoholic beverages during movies and posted a sign stating that no one under the age of 21 can be present when alcohol is sold unless accompanied by someone over the age of 21.

At issue was a state law requiring tavern license holders to have prepared meals on hand during operating hours, which the theatre has addressed, and a 2006 town ordinance requiring anyone under the age of 21 to be accompanied by an adult at events where alcohol is served. The local ordinance is more restrictive than the state law, but does not include restaurant licenses.

At the June 14 town meeting, Mayor Charles Stewart said the town wants to resolve the issue and work with the theatre. Since the ordinance has never been enforced, "I don't think there is any intent on the part of the town to enforce this ordinance at this point in time," said Stewart. "We have not been enforcing it in the two years that I have been on the board. To suddenly enforce it, without notice to the public, I think would be inappropriate."

FOPT president Elaine Brett appeared before the board during the visitor portion of the agenda. She said the theatre has no problem with adhering to the state food service requirements, and requests that the 2006 ordinance be repealed or amended to come in line with state law.

The ordinance compromises not only the future of the theatre, but also affects other local businesses, said Brett. Movie theatres don't survive solely on ticket sales and need healthy concessions to remain in business. "We are not a bar. Our primary business is community gathering, not drinking." The theatre also prides itself on providing local products, including Big B's Hard Ciders, Revolution Brewing beers and local wines, and collects state and local sales taxes, said Brett.

Big B's head hard cider maker Shawn Larson said that while the company sells its products throughout the region, "The Paradise Theatre happens to be our No. 1 account." Larson asked the board to understand that "the Paradise Theatre affects other businesses as well."

"We have no intent to revoke or suspend any licenses at the current time," said Stewart. He speculates that it was the town trustees' intent in passing the ordinance to prevent minors from being in bars, "which seems to be a pretty understandable concern. Obviously, your situation does not fit that scenario."

The issue could be placed on the agenda as early as the June 28 meeting. Agendas are posted at Paonia Town Hall and on the town website, townofpaonia.com, the Friday prior to each meeting.

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North Fork
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