City Council approves liquor license for Illinois Theater

By Gary Scott on April 25, 2017 at 7:09am

Jacksonville alderman approved a liquor license for a downtown movie theater at last night’s city council meeting.

City Council members passed an ordinance by a vote of six-to-four amending the Jacksonville Municipal Code for the sale of alcoholic beverages at the Illinois Theater.

Prior to the vote, however, Mayor Andy Ezard opened the floor for public comment. Among those in attendance was co-owner of the Illinois Theater Peter Karras, who answered questions from several aldermen, including Steve Warmowski, who eventually voted yes.

Warmowski explains where some of his questions came from.

“I had a number of people contact me on both sides. A lot of people wondered how they were going to control the amount of alcohol people were going to have, that they were going to keep the theater clean, how they were going to keep the family atmosphere, and (Karras answered all of those questions. Karras said they were only going to sell one drink, and it’s only going to be beer or wine, when you enter the theater. There are a lot of issues in terms of keeping it family-friendly, but that’s something that, if you go to any family restaurant (that serves alcohol) with a kid, that’s the same control issues they have to deal with,” says Warmowski.

Also in attendance last night was George Murphy, a volunteer with M.A.D.D., or Mothers Against Drunk Driving organization. While Murphy says he respects the decision to pass the license, he shares his concerns.

“I have said and reiterated to the council members that I consider Illinois Theater and any theater a family setting. My concern was, if a person comes into the theater that’s already had a few drinks, then gets more alcohol at the theater, they leave then they’re on the roads…I just don’t like the odds,” says Murphy.

Karras did not comment any further than what was discussed during the meeting. Karras did, however, reiterate that he agrees with Murphy’s argument, and stated that he was seeking a liquor license in order to remain competitive with South County Cinema, which does serve alcohol.

Warmowski says, for him, it came down to supporting a local business.

“The owners of the theater have made a large investment in the community and the downtown, and (Karras) said that they needed this liquor license to stay competitive and keep up with the times. It’s really hard to tell him how to run his own business,” Warmowski explains.

Also at last night’s meeting, the second reading to rezone property on St. Andrews Drive, near the Jacksonville Country Club, was tabled for further discussion.