With little to no fanfare, Sonoma Cinemas quietly began offering beer and wine, as well as an expanded hot food menu, at its concession stand last week.
Sonoma Cinema 9 is owned and operated by Cinema West, a Petaluma-based chain of 15 movie theater locations.
The pink Sonoma Highway cineplex now serves three bottled beer choices, Lagunitas IPA, Coors Light and Modelo ($7 to $8), and two wines – Raymond Reserve Selection Chardonnay for $8.50 and Folie a Deux Pinot Noir at $10. The cinema is also offering cheese and pepperoni pizza ($6.25), a hot soft pretzel ($4.25) and wedge fries ($4) with toppings.
Proof of age is checked at the ticket counter and patrons who want an adult beverage get a bright yellow “Over 21” wristband. Cineplex staff can serve beer or wine during all business hours.
No breakable glass is allowed in the theater. The beer is decanted into a cup, the wine is served in a hard plastic wine glass.
Cinema West received its special permit to sell beer and wine from the Alcohol Board of California back in 2017.
In 2017, Cinema 9 owner David Corkill told the Index-Tribune that while he had the beer and wine license in hand, he did not plan for the Sonoma property to serve alcohol until broad renovations to the property, including larger reclining seats with built-in tables, were complete.
Some use permits require a separate area for beer and wine sales and Corkill had expected, back in 2017, that he would go that route for the Sonoma Cinemas as well. Numerous other theaters across Sonoma County already sell beer and wine to customers, including cinemas in Healdsburg and Sebastopol. Sales are typically from noon until 10:30 p.m. Cinema West has offered beer and wine in its Tiburon and Livermore locations for several years.
As to Sonoma’s other movie theater, the road to soft alcohol has been harder. Roger Rhoten of the Sebastiani Theatre explained last year that in order to sell beer and wine, cinemas must sell food. And in order to sell food, beyond popcorn and candy, the theatre would need substantial renovations.
“It is something we want to be able to offer and it is in our planned improvements down the road,” said Rhoten.
The entire Fiesta Plaza shopping center complex at 18615 Sonoma Highway was sold in 2016 to the San Francisco-based Dwares Family Group and its holding company First Sonoma LLC. The purchase included the 3.6-acre parcel and all 45,585-square-feet of rentable buildings, plus 188 parking spaces.
Sonoma Cinemas, which is located at 2000 Siesta Way inside the Fiesta Complex, was built in 1994. Additional screens were added in 1998 and 2009, bringing the total from four to nine. In a 2009 remodel, the theater added all-stadium seating and all-digital projection and sound.
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