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Nanny State of the Week: City rewrites law to block theater from getting liquor license

By   /   February 22, 2016  /   News  /   No Comments

Part 70 of 80 in the series Nanny State of the Week

Movie theaters, facing ever-increasing competition from innovators such as Netflix and other on-demand movie services are trying new ways to lure potential customers out of their homes.

Some have found success by turning the movie-going experience into more than just squeaky chairs, sticky floors and popcorn.

Recent years have seen a new trend of upscale movie theaters offering food and drink menus that look like they should belong in a restaurant. Some even have tables instead of the traditional rows of fold-up seats.

Shutterstock image

BEER AND POPCORN DON’T MIX: City officials in Bismarck, North Dakota, voted Feb. 16 to rewrite the rules to prevent a movie theater from purchasing a liquor license.

But that sort of business model only works if you can get the proper licenses from the local or state government.

It won’t fly in Bismarck, North Dakota.

Yes, there’s nannyism even in a state that most Americans probably think of as an anything-goes, recluse’s paradise.

City officials in Bismarck voted last week to rewrite the rules to prevent a movie theater from purchasing a liquor license.

Carmike Theaters, a national chain, had applied for a license and planned to offer beer for sale — something the company is doing across the country as part of a national effort to expand concession offerings.

City commissioners responded by tightening the rules on who can get a license to serve booze. They told the Bismarck Times that the original intent of the city’s liquor licensing law was to ensure only restaurants and bars can sell.  The new law requires potential licensees to have table tops and a full kitchen before they can serve beer or liquor.

In Bismarck, Carmike Theaters filed the license application on Jan. 20, before city commissioners rewrote the law to specifically exclude them.

R.J. Pathroff, an attorney from the Vogel Law Firm, who represented Carmike Theaters, told the Bismarck Tribune that the city should not base its decision retroactively on a revised law.

City officials say they have never given a liquor license to any establishment that isn’t a restaurant or a bar – the classic bureaucratic response of “we’ve always done it this way” explains so much about what makes government a pain to deal with, when you think about it.

Except that’s not even true. As the Tribune points out, the Bismarck Event Center, a convention center, has a liquor license.

Finally, other members of the city council said they had concerns about minors being served alcohol in the movie theater.

Seems like that’s an argument for banning all alcohol sales in the city, right? Isn’t there an equal concern that minors could get a beer at a bar or restaurant?

If those establishments serve minors, and get caught, they will be punished and will lose their license. Why should a movie theater be treated any differently?

Rewriting a law to specifically exclude or ban one particular business – after they’ve already applied for the license, no less – is a straight-up intrusion by government into the marketplace. In the absence of a legitimate public safety reason to stop Carmike Theaters from selling beer, this action by the Bismarck City Council screams of nannyism.

It could be worse, though. This guy in England is trying to get theaters to ban popcorn.  The horror!

Part of 80 in the series Nanny State of the Week
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  2. Nanny-state city of the week: Minneapolis wants to ban take-out trays
  3. Skim is in: CT lawmakers want to ban whole milk in day cares
  4. Nanny state of the week: Fairfax, VA, wants to limit the right to assemble
  5. Nanny state of the week: SC — and Schumer — for duplicative efforts to ban powdered alcohol
  6. Nanny of the Week: Virginia hoses down car wash fundraisers
  7. Nanny of the Week: Even a summertime trip to the beach can’t be nanny-free
  8. Nanny of the week: Federal authorities think feral cats can read signs
  9. Nanny of the week: Cambridge wants to ban ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft
  10. Nanny-stater of the week: NY lawmaker wants to ban photos with tigers
  11. Nanny-stater of the Week: Who needs cupcakes and candy? Here, have a pencil
  12. Nanny-stater of the week: Fargo limits kids to less than four shots of juice per day
  13. Nanny-stater of the week: Wisconsin towns fight repeal of bow ban
  14. Nanny of the week: No fun in the sun, thanks to Congress and FDA
  15. Nanny-stater of the week: DOT to ban cell phone use on planes
  16. Nanny of the week: The out-of-control trend of arresting non-helicopter moms
  17. Nanny of the Week: Vermont city could ban ‘human activity’
  18. Nanny of the Week: Mississippi makes bird feeders illegal – by accident
  19. Nanny of the week: MO town bans breastfeeding near pools
  20. Nanny of the Week: School bans lip balm, 11 year-old girl fights back
  21. Watchdog.org blows lid off Vermont’s bake sale brownie ban
  22. Nanny of the Week: Seattle imposes fine on residents who throw away food
  23. Nanny of the Week: California bans plastic bags
  24. Nanny of the week: Maybe this time it will be different for Chicago
  25. Nanny of the Week: Florida growls at craft breweries’ growlers
  26. Nanny of the Week: Massachusetts town seeking to ban tobacco faces uprising from residents
  27. Nanny of the Week: Proposed bans on Thanksgiving Day shopping
  28. Nanny of the week: U.S. government bans ‘Comfyballs’ underwear
  29. Nanny of the Week: Better take down those holiday decorations
  30. Nanny of the week: Towns ban sledding
  31. Nanny of the Week: New York City plans to ban out-of-state cars
  32. Nanny of the Week: Snow-shoveling teens get in trouble with the law
  33. Nanny of the Week: Get caught wearing yoga pants three times, go to jail for life
  34. Nanny of the Week: Georgia lawmaker wants to ban mermaids, werewolves, other fictional creatures from real life
  35. Nanny State of the Week: Endangering manatees in Florida
  36. Nanny of the Week: Christie caves to protectionist gravestone proposal in N.J.
  37. Nanny of the Week: Don’t mix beer and ice cream – because of the children
  38. Nanny of the Week: Is the minimum wage a nanny state policy?
  39. Nanny of the Week: Republican in NY backs cat declawing ban
  40. Nanny of the Week: NJ continues ban on self-serve gasoline, because sometimes it snows
  41. Nanny of the Week: Bernie Sanders is coming for your deodorant
  42. Nanny of the Week: Will babies confuse beer for their binkies?
  43. Nanny of the Week: Weeds will prevail in Maryland lawn care ban
  44. Nanny State of the Week: FDA bans trans-fats
  45. Nanny State of the Week: L.A. plans to jail unlicensed street vendors
  46. Nanny ST8 of the Week: Anti-government messages not allowed on license plates
  47. Nanny State of the Week: Helicopters, horses and New York City
  48. Nanny State of the Week: Lawsuit challenges Seattle trash snooping
  49. Nanny State of the Week: Town officials mandate mowing
  50. Nanny State of the Week: Florida county sends environmental specialist to investigate BBQ
  51. Nanny State: Despite menu nannies, Americans still fat!
  52. Nanny State of the Week: New York City’s ban on Styrofoam hurts businesses, consumers
  53. Nanny State of the Week: Colorado Springs may ban sitting in public places
  54. Nanny State of the Week: New York’s soda ban could be back — but for kids only
  55. Nanny State of the Week: D.C. flexing licensing muscles at personal trainers
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  57. Nanny State of the Week: County can use same lawn treatments it banned residents from using
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  59. Nanny State of the Week: Bay Area bureaucrats ban fireplaces, wood stoves
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  62. Nanny State of the Week: New York might accidentally ban makeup
  63. Nanny State of the Week: California could be first state to apply no-fly list to guns
  64. Nanny State of the Week: University may block social media app in futile effort to combat racism
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  66. Nanny State of the Week: No Christmas in Bethlehem this year
  67. Nanny State of the Week: Connecticut may outlaw smoking in many cars
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  69. Nanny State of the Week: Minnesota men facing felony charges for selling beer
  70. Nanny State of the Week: City rewrites law to block theater from getting liquor license
  71. Nanny State of the Week: FDA goes beyond the pale, prepares to ban teen tanning
  72. Nanny State of the Week: Charleston’s storied history is off-limits to the unlicensed
  73. Nanny State of the Week: Feds marketing food stamps with bingo games, TV ads
  74. Nanny State of the Week: No sipping and selling for Alabama winemakers
  75. Nanny State of the Week: Jail time for texting while walking in New Jersey
  76. Nanny State of the Week: In time for Opening Day, cities ban chewing tobacco at ballparks
  77. Nanny State of the Week: Feds send LSD Ale on a long, strange trip
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  79. Nanny State of the Week: A state license for breast-feeding advice?
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Eric is the national regulatory reporter for Watchdog.org. He lives in St. Paul, Minnesota. His work has appeared in Reason Magazine, National Review Online, The Freeman Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Washington Examiner and Fox News. He was once featured in a BuzzFeed list-icle. Follow him on Twitter @EricBoehm87.