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Maryland Theatre audience members can drink in seats, Washington County liquor board says

July 10, 2008|By DAN DEARTH

HAGERSTOWN -- The Washington County liquor board agreed Wednesday to allow people who are 21 years old or older to consume alcohol in their seats during shows at The Maryland Theatre.

Wednesday's decision came two weeks after theater officials and the Board of License Commissioners for Washington County, known as the liquor board, met to discuss complaints from a handful of theater patrons who said people took alcohol to their seats during an April performance by Gaelic Storm, a five-piece Irish band.

At that first meeting, liquor board Chairman Robert L. Everhart said he didn't want alcohol to go "past the ushers." But after theater officials said the restriction might reduce revenues, the liquor board agreed to reconsider.

On Wednesday, board and theater officials met again to discuss proposals that would satisfy both parties.

Theater officials, including Executive Director Jenni Hatcher, presented the board with a letter that highlighted 10 measures the theater takes to ensure alcohol is served responsibly. In addition, it was agreed to let entertainers consume alcohol onstage on a case-by-case basis. There were complaints that some members of Gaelic Storm drank beer during the group's show.

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The theater agreed to prohibit entertainers from bringing their own alcohol into the theater.

Ronald L. Bowers, president of The Maryland Theatre's board of directors, said after the meeting that he thought the theater was treated fairly.

"We've been treated well all along," Bowers said. "We did nothing wrong. ... I apologize that anyone was offended. We'll move forward in the same manner as we have in the past."

Everhart conceded after the meeting that it might sound like the liquor board caved to the theater.

"What we really tried to do was get their attention," Everhart said. "I think they got the message."

Everhart said the board doesn't want to inhibit downtown businesses when that area of the city is trying to grow.

"We want to work with them, not against them," he said.

The liquor board agreed to give the theater a six-month trial period to let people continue consuming alcohol in their seats, Everhart said. If more complaints are made, the board will revisit the issue.




How theater officials control alcohol use



The following points were issued Wednesday to the Board of License Commissioners for Washington County to describe how officials at The Maryland Theatre control alcohol use on the premises.

· We have a series of internal controls working together throughout every show and event at The Maryland Theatre.

· Most of our employees and volunteers are certified (to serve alcohol), and we have other volunteers waiting for certification pending class availability.

· We have long-term, experienced staff and volunteers working in the theater for all shows and events.

· We ask for identification if there is any question to age where alcoholic beverages are purchased.

· Our staff and ushers watch behavior of patrons carefully for any kind of distress or abnormal behavior both within the theater and in the lobby areas.

· We work in coordination with the City Police Department, notifying them of all shows and events and welcoming them into the theater. It is not at all uncommon to have two or more police officers within the theater's auditorium and/or outside during a performance.

· We have multiple staff and volunteers watching the audience for all types of safety issues throughout every performance and event ... We also hire additional security for highly attended/sell out concerts to ensure safety in all respects, alcohol and otherwise.

· We watch patrons carefully in terms of repeat trips to the bar and in general demeanor while within the theater and if there is any question, we will and have refused service.

· We have the numbers of local cab companies on hand should anyone require assistance home for any reason.

· We always purchase and sell our beverages under the rules and regulations of the Liquor Licensing Board.

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