An attempt by Cineworld to allow moviegoers to pop corks while eating popcorn has been knocked back over fears that young people may be able to obtain alcohol from their peers.
The cinema last month asked for its Seventh Category alcohol selling licence, which currently applies only to the bar and the VIP boxes, to be extended to all of the auditoriums as well as the foyer.
But the application has now been knocked back by the Licensing Assembly – a panel of jurats in charge of deciding which premises should be allowed to sell alcohol in Jersey - who postponed any decision on the application until the cinema assuages its concerns that the sale of alcoholic beverages won't be restricted enough.
The decision came following representations from Mark Whittey, Cineworld’s Operations Director, who argued that there has been changes in the cinema business, which meant it was in the public interest to grant the application.
He explained there has been a growing demand from customers to be able to enjoy an alcoholic drink while watching opera, ballet or other artistic performances broadcast live in the cinema, just as they would be able to do if they were watching it live.
Pictured: Movie-goers have been asking for more than popcorn when watching live performances of opera, ballet or other artistic performances.
While they noted this was “common practice” in other Cineworld outlets in the UK, the Licensing Assembly said they were concerned that granting a licence to the foyer, which they described as “a very large public area”, would mean that the entertainment licence sought by Cineworld would be separated from the actual entertainment, the cinema screens.
They added that the company had not been able to prove that supervision would be enough to reduce the risk of young people having access to alcohol through others or their peers.
Furthermore, the panel said that since alcohol would be served in the same area where clients can purchase their tickets or snacks and drinks, there was a danger that those purchasing alcohol might not necessarily go on to watch a film.
“In our view, while there is no objection to the licensing of the auditoriums, the sales of alcohol ought to take place once patrons have passed through the check-in desk which is operated to ensure that those passing that desk have a ticket to enter a particular auditorium,” they wrote.
They suggested alcohol sales be restricted to those who are already in possession of a ticket, in a similar way to Duty Free shopping at airports.
Pictured: The Licensing Assembly suggested alcohol be only sold to people who have a cinema ticket.
They also suggested the cinema consider restricting drinking in screens where 18+ movies are being shown, to make sure young people are not being exposed to drink. They noted: “There appears to be no local market research to indicate that local parents would be happy for their children (in some cases unattended – such as those in their mid-teens) to be in the same cinema screen with someone unknown to them openly drinking alcohol.”
The Assembly also identified issues with the opening hours of Cineworld, which would have conflicted with the requirement of the licence.
“If Cineworld maintains the application, it would appear that the premises as a whole would have to close during part of the afternoon on any Sunday and we are unclear whether the applicant is aware of this difficulty,” they explained.
The Licensing Assembly has therefore decided to adjourn the application for up to 12 months to allow Cineworld to bring it back "with further information or proposals which meet the concerns we have set out and the application will be further considered then, if the company so desires".
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