If you’ve never watched a meeting of Community Board 8’s Street Life committee— which is likely to be most people— the best way to describe it is like a thread of comments on the NextDoor app come to life. Where Upper East Siders frightened by everything coalesce with like-minded neighbors who think they know it all and are waiting for their ‘gotcha’ moment, but in reality don’t have a clue. Yet these Community Board members are tasked with making important decisions that affect the lives of thousands of Upper East Siders. Tuesday night’s meeting didn’t disappoint as two board members made outrageous demands of a movie theater chain that wants to serve alcohol at its UES location.
Earlier this year, the New York State Liquor Authority— the agency that regulates the sale of alcohol in the state— ruled that movie theaters could apply for wine and beer licenses, which would allow them to serve booze to movie goers.
Until now, movie theaters in New York could only serve alcohol to customers if they also included a full kitchen and table service— like the Nitehawk in Brooklyn or the Alamo Drafthouse.
The change could provide a much needed boost to the bottom lines of theater owners, like the mega-chain AMC, which is moving to serve alcohol at all of its New York City theaters.
A representative revealed those plans during Community Board 8’s Street Life committee meeting on Tuesday, while seeking a license recommendation for AMC Orpheum 7, located at 1538 Third Avenue, between East 86th and 87th Streets.
The move immediately struck a nerve with two board members— Loraine Brown, who goes by Mrs. Brown, and Lori Ann Bores— who were alarmed just at the thought of a potentially lethal mix of alcohol and firearms at the UES movie theater, fueled by illegally drunk teenagers armed with guns.
If it sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. Let’s start at the beginning.
First, Mrs. Brown, who frequently hijacks Street Life committee meetings with illogical inquiries and demands, was flabbergasted that a movie theater would want to serve beer and wine starting at 10:00 am— when the theater opens— and couldn’t comprehend how they could possibly keep track of how many drinks were being served to customers.
“Then how do you monitor the drinks? Suppose you have somebody that comes back five or six or seven times, you know, for drinks?”
Reps for AMC explained that their policy is for bartenders to check proof-of-age during the sale and limit customers to a maximum of three drinks.
That wasn’t good enough for Mrs. Brown, who apparently doesn’t understand how alcohol sales work at any busy restaurant or bar in the United States.
“If there’s a busy and it’s a popular movie, how was it done? Do you ask it every time for their license? And you check their name off? You write their name down? I mean, how is it being monitored?” Mrs. Brown continued.
“That would be a positive ID check. Correct,” said Khristian Walker, general manager of AMC Oprheum 7.
Not satisfied with the answers she got, Mrs. Brown indicated it was still a problem for her and thanked them for their time.
Next up, Community Board 8 member Lori Bores— mother of Democratic nominee for New York State Assembly Alex Bores— shared what can only be described as the most absurd and misinformed opinion of the night.
After explaining that she hasn’t gone to the movies for a very long time, because of a “shooting incident in the theaters” in the past, which she did not specify— even telling the meeting she “would not go to a public theater”— Bores proceeded to say the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that overturned New York’s law regarding the concealed weapons licensing process.
“I am really concerned about safety,’ Bores told the meeting’s attendees.
“I think that adding alcohol to the mix of relatively inexpensive tickets and young men seeing, you know, violent movies, which is most of what they all are now, is a very dangerous situation,” Bores said, then asked AMC agree to a stipulation the theater would install metal detectors.
After the AMC reps told Bores they’d have to take the request for metal detectors back to their corporate office in Kansas before they’d be able to agree to the stipulation, another Community Board 8 member finally spoke up.
“Life is not safe. We go on subways, we go on buses, we go places,” said Barbara Rudder, speaking as the voice of reason, “movies are very important part of our community. We have lost so many movies in our community.”
“I’m thrilled that you want to upgrade because I was afraid that you would close,” Rudder added, noting that the board had approved a recommendation for full liquor license for a movie theater in the past.
Mrs. Brown, now armed with Bores’ even more ridiculous argument than her previous one, weighed in again.
“With the open carry gun laws now, everything has changed,” Mrs. Brown began.
“If you’re going to start serving wine or beer at 10:00 in the morning and you don’t have a system on how you’re really going to monitor the person who’s getting the drinks. That’s another issue for me. I favor the stipulation of metal detectors because of the open carry gun law.”
Then Mrs. Brown hit the AMC rep with what she likely thought was going to be a zinger.
“I thought Dalian Wanda Group in China was the owners of AMC. Are you stating they no longer own AMC theaters?” asked Mrs. Brown with emphasis, grilling the AMC representative as if she was leading a contentious congressional hearing.
“No, I didn’t state that,” the AMC rep told Mrs. Brown, explaining that the U.S. corporate offices for the theater chain are in located in Kansas.
Others chimed in to voice their support for the theater and its plans to add beer and wine to the menu.
“I appreciate Lori Bores’ honesty that she doesn’t go to the cinema,” said Boaz Galil, a member of the public.
“We go to the cinema, my family, my friends. So let’s try to make sure that they keep their business up and running,” he added.
Lori Bores spoke up again.
“As Mrs. Brown brought up, I can see the word on the street getting out to kids that like ‘hey, let’s go let’s go to 10 O’clock, you know, let’s go to a 10 O’clock movie and we’ll get a drink.’ Or even just going in so that they can get a drink. You know, it’s just– it’s very dangerous. It’s very dangerous,” she added, pushing for the metal detector stipulation.
After more than twenty minutes of debate, the Community Board 8 Street Life committee ultimately voted to recommend a beer and wine license for AMC Orpheum 7 without any stipulations.
That’s not to mention that the entire discussion was an exercise in futility because our Community Board members simply don’t know the laws of New York City or state.
That’s because there is no ‘open carry’ in New York State, period. The Supreme Court ruled that the state’s concealed weapon licensing process was unconstitutional because it was too strict, basically saying that anyone who wants a concealed weapons permit should be able to get one.
Furthermore, since that ruling, New York State implemented new laws to restrict where guns can be brought by concealed weapons permit holders, which went into effect September 1st.
Under the new law, theaters as well as licensed establishments where alcohol is consumed on premises— like a movie theater serving beer and wine— would be off limits to guns anyway.
These are important details you’d expect someone serving on a governmental body to have before launching into a passionate debate during a public meeting.
However, like each and every first Tuesday of the month— when Community Board 8’s Street Life committee meets— all bets are off.