BERLIN — In what will be a new concept for Worcester County, a movie theater in West Ocean City will include a small bar following approval from officials this week.
The Worcester County Board of License Commissioners (BLC) agreed to grant Flagship Premium Theaters a beer and wine license Wednesday. The license will allow the theater, which is expected to open May 15, to install a small bar in its lobby.
“This is a new concept for Worcester County, but I think you’ll find it’s a very benign concept,” said Joe Moore, the theater’s attorney.
Moore told the board that Flagship Premium Theaters, which will occupy the space previously occupied by Michaels in the White Marlin Mall, was seeking a beer and wine license to set up a modest bar in a portion of the theater’s lobby. The space, to be called the Pig and Whistle, would serve beer and wine as well as light fare. Moore said the company already had a Pig and Whistle bar in its Wareham, Mass., location and that it had been successful.
He stressed that patrons would not be able to take their alcoholic drinks into the theater.
Paul Wenger, president of the company, said that the bartender on duty would monitor patrons to ensure they drank responsibly. He said they’d also be required to provide identification, which would be scanned, each time they purchased a drink.
“The scanner will identify any fraudulent IDs,” he said, adding that it would also ensure that patrons did not exceed the two-drink limit the bar was mandating.
Board members asked how the theater would ensure that those purchasing drinks didn’t in turn hand them off to minors. Wenger explained that the entire lobby had been designed with a open floor plan, with just low walls surrounding the immediate bar area, so that employees could monitor everyone inside.
“It’s a very controlled environment,” he said, adding that there were also several other employees, including a doorman and the clerks, who would oversee patrons.
Wenger said bar patrons would be allowed to move throughout the lobby with their drinks. He added that employees would be able to identify the customers drinking alcohol because they’d be served with clear cups, not the traditional paper cups used for soda.
“We’ve been doing it in Wareham with great success for a year and a half,” he said. “The lobby is twice the size of the Ocean City facility.”
William Esham, chairman of the BLC, said his concern was that patrons could potentially hand off drinks to others who weren’t old enough to drink.
Moore said that while there were four or five counties in Maryland that already allowed the sale of alcohol in movie theaters, Flagship had opted not to request that.
“We felt constricting it to the lobby was quite conservative,” Wenger said. “It’s very common to have alcoholic beverages in auditoriums.”
Moore added that the proposed situation was no different than that which existed in any restaurant, where some customers were old enough to drink and others were not.
“Our control is probably much better than in a restaurant,” he said.
The BLC voted unanimously to approve the license after Wenger agreed to reduce the number of access points to the bar area.
At Wednesday’s meeting the BLC also approved a transfer of the beer and wine license from the Royal Farms at 8307 Coastal Highway to the Royal Farms at 12826 Ocean Gateway.