East Grand Forks ordinance change clears the way for booze at the movies

An East Grand Forks ordinance prohibited anyone from possessing more than one city liquor license. City Council members voted on Tuesday, Oct. 1, to remove that prohibition -- a move that's set to ease a plan to sell liquor at River Cinema 15.

River Cinema owner Bob Moore, right, works with Jeff Hatcher, left, and Adam Honkola on remodeling part of the East Grand Forks theater complex Wednesday. Photo by Eric Hylden/Grand Forks Herald

An East Grand Forks City Council vote cleared the way for at least one business venture in town.

Council members voted unanimously on Tuesday, Oct. 1, to amend a city ordinance that prevented a business owner from having more than one liquor license. That change means people can have a stake in more than one place that serves alcohol.

Before then, city policy prevented a person from getting a liquor license if “directly or indirectly interested in any other establishment” that already had one. The Council’s vote amended that policy to only apply to off-sale licensees now.

The change means that Bob Moore, who owns and operates the River Cinema 15 in the Riverwalk Centre mall, can more easily move forward with a plan to serve beer and liquor there. Three of the cinema’s screens are on one side of a mall hallway and the remaining 12 are on the other side. Moore is working to turn the concession stand on the triplex side into a bar from which moviegoers can grab a snack or a drink before heading into their show at either segment of the cinema.

The bar is set to be named “Roxie’s Bar and Grill” after his granddaughter, who’s been working to design it, and as a nod to the famous movie theater of the same name in San Francisco. He and his staff also aim to serve canned beer, margaritas and daiquiris at the concession stands at each theater area.


The old version of the ordinance may have prohibited Moore from serving alcohol in the 12-plex side because the two segments of his business could be considered separate premises even though Moore owns both -- and the mall itself. Removing the stipulation about other establishments clears the runway for alcohol service on both sides, city staff said.

The now-removed provision isn’t very common, City Administrator David Murphy told the Herald.

“That’s really kind of unusual,” he said.

Staff at the League of Minnesota Cities and the Minnesota Department of Public Safety’s Alcohol and Gambling Enforcement Division said they don’t keep track of how many cities have an ordinance similar to East Grand Forks’ old one.

Tony Chesak, the executive director of the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, said he didn’t know of a single city that restricted alcohol sales the way East Grand Forks did.

Joe Bowen is an award-winning reporter at the Duluth News Tribune. He covers schools and education across the Northland.

You can reach him at:
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