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Downtown movie theater looks to add beer, wine, food at tables

Posted November 3rd, 2014

By Chris Vetter

 

The Micon Downtown Cinema theater could be in for a major renovation, including installing tables, a kitchen, and the availability of beer and wine.

The Eau Claire City Council will consider a proposal Tuesday to give a beer and wine license to theater owners Mike and Connie Olson.

 

Mike Olson said he would close the theater for about a month to renovate the building.

“Our plan is to take out seats and put in some tables,” he said. “It’s not our plan to turn the theater into a bar. We want to keep the nostalgia. This is a very old building.”

Like other theaters nationwide, the downtown theater must convert to digital movies, and that conversion alone will cost about $100,000, Olson said.

“It’s going to be a very expensive process to remodel,” he said. “We believe in the downtown. To continue to thrive, we need to make some changes. We want to elevate people’s movie-going experience.”

Douglas Hoffer, Eau Claire assistant city attorney, said the city’s License Review Committee recommended approval of the beer and wine license at a meeting Sept. 16, after the Olsons told the committee they would have video cameras in the theater as well as staff monitoring the room.

“We looked at if they could legally control the premises,” Hoffer said. “Our big concern was if they could monitor the use of alcohol. They addressed the concerns we had.”

The Olsons have owned the downtown theater for four years. They recently visited the Rivoli Theater in La Crosse, which offers a variety of food and beverages. They noted several other theaters in the state also are serving alcohol.

Other changes to the building would include renovating the lobby, widening aisles, more spacious seating, new lighting, carpets and paint. A handicap-accessible bathroom also would be installed.

The downtown theater has shown second-run films, but the Olsons said they might try to bring in smaller, independent movies and award winners that wouldn’t draw a large fan base in the bigger theaters.

“People shouldn’t have to drive to the Twin Cities to see movies they want to see,” Mike Olson said. “We’d like to mix it up a little.”

Connie Olson said the alcohol license and renovated theater also could allow for a few different events.

“I’d like to dedicate a week to a film festival,” she said. “It allows more flexibility.”

The state Legislature approved a measure in 2011 that allowed movie theaters to seek a class B liquor or class B beer license.

 

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