The city’s OK for “adult beverages” at the movies will be on the agenda of the May 21 Cabot City Council meeting. “The final decision is not tonight,” Public Works Committee chairman Ed Long said at the Cabot City Council Agenda meeting held May 7. That decision would be made at the regular Council meeting held on the third Monday, he said.
Other matters considered for the May 21 Council meeting include new electric controlling for the police department, and changes to the animal control ordinance restriction of Pit Bull terriers from the city.
Aldermen Kevin Davis, Doug Warner, Damon Bivens, Norma Naquin, Rick Prentice, Ann Gilliam, Ed Long and Ron Waymack attended the meeting.
City attorney Jimmy Taylor explained that changes to ACA 3-9-222, made during the 2017 General Assembly, require private club permit applications to Alcohol Beverage Control be accompanied by an ordinance by “the governing body of the county or municipality in which the private club seeks to be located,” approving operation of the club.
“It’s my understanding … that if the … in our case the city council, does not approve the application, it cannot go any further,” Taylor said.
Two private club applications were before the committees. Long noted that the request for Mi Ranchito was required only because the restaurant was being moved to new facilities behind the current location at 12406 Arkansas Highway 5. The request was presented by owner Alex Jasso and manager Brittany Winnyr.
The committee members approved the request for council consideration.
Matt Smith, owner of Silver Screen 8 at Cabot, told the council of the business considerations in requesting the private club permit for the theater.
Smith said that along with the Silver Screen 8 at Cabot he also owns theaters at Searcy, Little Rock, Hot Springs and has a Missouri location.
Smith said he bought Silver Screen in 2004 as a four-screen theater and has since expanded to eight screens, digital sound and projection, reclining seating and added hot food items. Beer and wine would be served if the permit is approved.
These are all improvements that are the future for theaters, with serving adult beverages key to survival, Smith said in remarks. “As the industry has changed, we have changed with the industry.”
“I just want to offer what customers are asking for,” Smith remarked.
“It is something that … some customers, expect at the movies now,” Smith said
In his experience, the Silver Screen is losing about 50,000 customers and $500,000 annually to other theaters that offer adult beverages; a loss of tax revenue for the city and schools, he said.
His staff is trained to refuse to sell alcohol with only appearance of not meeting legal requirements; theaters are patrolled for violations, Smith said. Also, at $8 for a 12-ounce beer, overdrinking tends not to be a problem. “People who want to drink will probably go down to the liquor store in Pulaski County,” he said.
There is a gap in the customer base, Smith said. Customers in the 21- to 29-year-old group are largely missing; these are the ones going to theaters outside of Cabot where adult beverages are served, he said.
Bivens was critical of responses he had gotten from the theater staff that if he was not happy with the Silver Screen, he could go to McCain Mall. Four of those responses were from someone saying they were Smith’s spouse, he said.
“No. Not my wife,” Smith said. She had no part in the theater, or even social media, being too busy at home, he said.
Bivens also questioned the customer base of Silver Screen, which, he said, is mainly teenagers. Demographics would say alcohol is not needed there, he said.
At the end of discussion, Smith said he just wanted to be treated as other businesses are treated. Teenagers go to the bowling alley and restaurants where alcohol is served.
The committee members voted, without dissension, to place the matter on the agenda for the May 21 City Council meeting.
In other matters, the council approved consideration of changes to the animal control ordinance to clarify questions of allowing pit bull terriers to “run at large” in the city, and to allow prohibited breeds trained and used for law enforcement.
The committee also approved a request by Chief of Police Jackie Davis for consideration of new “tasers,” for the department.
The current inventory, except for two, is obsolete with parts and supplies no longer available, Davis said.
To replace the inventory outright would cost about $90,000, but the manufacturer, Axon, Inc., offers a five-year program to supply each officer with a weapon for about $13,700 the first year, and then $18,000 each year afterward.
The committee members placed the matter on the Council agenda.